Debate Is Not Safe: The Agent on ‘Safe Spaces’

If the media doesn’t spread the word, how will anyone know to care about your cause?… dunce.
Source: Daily News

So, in last week’s fuming rant on how most anti-trans arguments are dead out of the gate, I may have let slip that I disapprove of the focus on and use of so-called ‘Safe Spaces’ on college campuses. So, I might as well elaborate on that now while the thought is still relatively fresh in my mind.

First things first, despite what the above statement may suggest, I’m not against the CONCEPT of a Safe Space. On the contrary; I think Safe Spaces are absolutely necessary for an increasingly politicized and divided society to function. No one can be expected to fight for their beliefs non-stop without rest- that’s how severe stress disorders develop. Every now and again, you need to have a place where you and like-minded people can go to just be themselves; a place to get away from the stress and judgment of politics, pull a Quasimoto and claim, “Sanctuary!”

That said, the way we use them now completely misses the point of a Safe Space. We’re often seeing videos of rallies and protests at these places that are mostly ineffective at best and toxic at worst because the very nature of a Safe Space doesn’t allow for a counterpoint to rally against and no constructive debate can be had. This leaves the people involved (who often have very good points to make, in reality) looking for all the world like angry, rabid animals rather than a victimized minority trying to fight back.

And yes, I know it sucks when a peaceful protest goes south and violence breaks out and perhaps preventing that was the intended goal. But, sad as it may be, that’s just one of the inherent risks that come with pushing back against the zeitgeist. Eventually, you have to step out of the Safe Space and have that confrontation if you want any change to be made. Every LGBT person attends a Pride Parade knowing that someone will likely try to break it up and may even become violent. Every Black-Lives-Matter protester acts with the knowledge that they will be LUCKY if all they get is a little pepper spray in the face.

The sad truth is that change – and political debate by extension – is chaotic, daunting and often breaks people. But I find that fact easier to swallow if you think of life like a body of water.

Peace is like a still pond; it may be easier to float in, but the scum, insects, and disease that breed and spread in the stagnant water make doing so a foolish venture.

Chaos is like a flowing river; the waves may try to jostle you under from time to time, but foul and sickly things cannot grow there and the currents will always push you forward.

It’s for this reason that I support anyone who advocates for open debate and criticism – even if I don’t personally agree with them. I do so because I know that every one of them is a chance for change. And change, however uncomfortable it may be, breeds life and renewed strength.

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My One Sentence Counter To NEARLY ALL Anti-Transgender Arguments

Is that really so hard to give? It’s not exactly a finite resource, you know?
Source: ACLU

So… Trans rights and politics are back in the spotlight again…

It would have been bad enough that our resident Fuqboi-In-Chief (yes, I’m done being respectful towards Donald Trump) wants to bring back the military ban on transgender service men and women. But, on a personal level, it gets worse.

I’ve worked with trans people almost all of my adult life. They’ve been my friends throughout college. They’re fellow writers and thinkers. They’re both my co-workers and my customers at my current job.

So, when not one, but TWO of my co-workers start making snide comments about trans customers behind their backs as they leave – one of whom didn’t even have the basic human decency to avoid using the words ‘f*g’ and ‘tranny’ – on top of all of the political falderal we’re experiencing, you can expect me to start getting a little nettled.

To make matters worse, I couldn’t say anything to them. I can actually get fired for getting into politics and social issues with people on the job because it makes for a ‘hostile work environment.’ I mean, you think the abuse and misuse of ‘safe spaces’ on campus are bad (well, they are, but that’s a different rant for another day)? You’ve clearly never had to share a work space with a bunch of unquestioning, bigoted, cretins before.

So, all I could do at those times was give them the evil eye to tell them to stop (one of the advantages of being a six-foot-four, 250 pound, Scotish-American is that’s usually all it takes to shut someone up). But, intimidation doesn’t address the core issue; they were still thinking based on irrational fear, hate, superstition, or whatever justification caused them to think it was okay to blurt out cruel words.

But, one of the perks of being a blogger is that I can posit my counter-argument in a public forum and, as long as I don’t name exact people and places, there will be no negative repercussions from me exercising my right to free speech. In fact, I can counter just about everything they throw at me with one question: …

… “Why do you even care?”

This is a question I insist that everyone ask themselves before seriously attempting to defend their beliefs because if you don’t have a decent reason to fight in a debate, you’ve already lost.

And wouldn’t you know it, I haven’t heard a good answer to that question from anyone against transgender rights yet.

“But it’s unnatural.” Yeah? So’s 98 percent of everything you use, wear, and eat. Humans are MASTERS at altering the world and themselves to suit their individual needs. If transgender people are wrong because they’re ‘unnatural,’ then you need to give up the synthetic fabrics that make up most of your clothing, the processed food you eat, the products made from selectively bred plants and animals, the metal tools made from alloys that don’t occur in nature, literally EVERYTHING made from plastic, etc.

“Aren’t there health risks involved in the transition?” Yes, there are and I award you points for your genuine concern. But it seems hypocritical that you would be against one human activity with known risks that can be screened and treated when far more dangerous activities like smoking and drinking get a pass… Unless you’re one of those folks that want to ban alcohol and tobacco too which didn’t go well the first time we did it. My point is that people have the freedom to experiment with their own bodies for better or worse. As long as it’s not your body, it’s not your problem.

“But my religion says…” STOP. Your religion is likely TENS OF THOUSANDS of years old. It dates back to the days of a much more limited understanding of how the universe works and enforces archaic laws that just don’t work anymore. You wouldn’t want your child going to school with outdated text books. So why are you using one as the basis of your life?

“I have no problem with trans people. I just wish they weren’t so obvious about it.” Well, I wish that your noxious breath and toothless smile from years of smoking weren’t so obvious, but I still ignore it and treat you like a human being, don’t I (Seriously, both of these people were terrible tobacco abusers and obviously didn’t care for themselves)? Some people just look the way they do. They either don’t want to change or lack the time and resources to change themselves at the moment. The point is that they’re still human and, until and unless they treat you like crap, deserve your consideration.

You see, I have a very simple philosophy: if you aren’t bothering me or anyone I love, I won’t bother you. And on average, the trans-community either leaves me and my kin be or works well with us. What’s more, there’s nothing inherent about being transgender that harms us – meaning any issues I have with trans-people are on an individual, case-by-case basis and not endemic of the whole community.

In short, unless you have irrefutable evidence that the trans-community is planning a global uprising and we are all in grave danger, your argument against them is probably bulls*** and you should just relax; you can be safe in the knowledge that the world isn’t ending just because you have to share it with people that you don’t quite understand.

Archive News: Sick Day

At the time of this writing, I can’t breathe, my head is pounding, and I’m light-headed and dizzy to the point of nausea. So, as you can guess, I don’t really have the mental strength to pontificate today.

That said, I’d like to take some time to thank everyone for their continuing support. Readership has been very encouraging these last few weeks. I was honestly worried that more controversial topics like my Agnostic interpretation of the Nine Satanic Statements would have driven most people away. But, with only one or two exceptions, it seems that most of you have stuck with me. It shows that you genuinely care about seeing things from a different perspective; even if it’s a perspective you personally don’t agree with. And that should be a sign to everyone that there’s still good in the world and decent, open-minded people willing to build it up.

I’ll have actual content next week folks. For now, I need to sleep off this pain before I have to go to work tonight. Thank you all again.

The Difference Between Types of Addiction (And Why It’s Important to Know Them)

That’s only true if you don’t know anything about the SCIENCE of addiction.
Source: nyacyouth.org

So, here in my home state of New Hampshire, we’ve been working through cannabis legalization for some time. And last month, we saw a huge step towards decriminalization.

Of course, one issue I keep seeing come up is people questioning or challenging the idea of whether marijuana is addictive or not. Well, as someone who studied the science and psychology behind addiction as part of his college life, I wanted to explain something about addiction that most people overlook; there’s a very real chance that you’re using the word ‘addiction’ wrong and that’s because people use (or misuse, as the case may be) the word to describe three very different problems that I’d like to explore with you.

Physical Addiction

This is what most people in the scientific community mean when they talk about whether or not something is addictive.

The way things we do or consume that make us “feel good” work is by triggering the release of stored dopamine that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain and creates a feeling of mild euphoria as a reward to encourage that behavior.Drugs like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol (yes, cigarettes and booze are drugs) work by increasing dopamine production and, essentially, flooding your brain in dopamine.

There’s a problem though; having too much dopamine in you all at once can cause the aforementioned receptors to become desensitized while natural dopamine production drops off. This means that you need more of your fix to get less than stellar results over time.

Cannabis, however, doesn’t work like that. While it does trigger dopamine release, it doesn’t directly increase its production. As such, it doesn’t desensitize receptors or reduce natural production with extended use. Therefore, It’s NOT physically addictive.

That said, you can’t exactly sleep on cannabis. While physical addiction isn’t a problem, you still have to contend with…

Physical Dependency

Have you ever skipped your morning coffee and felt like complete ass the rest of the day until you finally get your caffeinated bean buzz? Well, congratulations; you are the victim of a physical dependency.

Physical dependency occurs when the long-term use of a particular drug results in negative, often painful, withdrawal symptoms after being taken off the drug in question. It’s basically your body’s version of the time you were running late and couldn’t find your car keys causing you to freak out because, “GODDAMN IT, IT WAS JUST HERE!”

This is a serious issue with cannabis and withdrawal symptoms DO exist. However, it’s worth noting that the withdrawal symptoms of Cannabis are arguably no worse than caffeine withdrawal. And unlike dependencies with other drugs like heroin (which have the potential to be lethal), the symptoms are often manageable enough to be handled without a doctor using nothing more than drinking water and exercise.

Now you’d think that would close the issue, right? It’s possible to be dependent without being addicted. Ergo, Cannabis is non-addictive but can result in dependency if used too often or starting use too young. However, there’s another form of “addiction” we need to discuss…

Psychological Addiction

Typically speaking, medicine doesn’t delve into psychological addiction. That’s because, in psychological addiction, the problem isn’t physical; it’s mental.

That’s not to say psychological addiction is psychosomatic or “not a real problem;” it’s just harder to pin down the cause. The causes for psychological addiction include genetic disposition, environment, mental health, and much more.

But, the point in cases of psychological addiction is this; the object of obsession is NOT the primary cause. The problem is that the person has formed a mental/emotional link to an object to the point that they can’t function normally without it.

So, there is a potential for cannabis to be psychologically addictive. However, 1) cases are extremely rare, 2) Weed is not the problem, and 3) by the definition of the term, ANYTHING can be psychologically addictive. That’s why people are constantly claiming addiction for things like social media, video games, and sex. The objects themselves aren’t addictive; the “addict” is just using them the same way Linus from Peanuts used his security blanket and similarly freak out without them (though not always to the same degree).

Why Know The Difference (Beyond Just Cannabis)?

So, beyond making a credible defense against the anti-weed crowd, why should YOU care so much about knowing the difference between these three categories?

Well, for starters, addiction is a very serious problem that damages the physical and mental health of those that suffer as well as puts a strain on friends and family. By constantly misusing the term “addiction,” we diminish the problem for sufferers and those close to them.

What’s more, knowing the different types of addictions/dependencies helps provide insight on how to better treat suffers. By finding solutions to the physiological end of the problem (i.e. finding ways to repair damage and weaning the body off a chemical safely) while providing for the victim’s psychological needs (addicts have been found to respond to treatment better when kept mentally amused and allowed to socialize), we can give these people the help they ACTUALLY need when they need it.

An Agnostic’s Interpretation of Religious Philosophies: The Nine Satanic Statements

Despite what some may insist, even The Devil has standards of practice.
Source: Scott Divine on Facebook

When I was working on my first degree in college, I took a course in Comparative World Religions during my first semester. As it turned out, I found that I enjoyed learning about other faiths and their philosophies even though I never really found a deity that I truly believed in.

I also found that a lot of faiths that I had been told about when I was younger were highly misinterpreted and I found a measure of happiness from better understanding those that are misunderstood.

So, what I would like to do is attempt to start an occasional series here about applying various religious philosophies to everyday life for the betterment of the self as well as to dismiss the myths surrounding these faiths to encourage understanding among various peoples. I’d love to learn more about and discuss any religion you would like to suggest. But for now, I’d like to start with the most controversial religion of MY day; Satanism.

Satanism has been seeing a return to popular consciousness after the “Satanic Panic” of the 80’s and 90’s – mostly due to political activism on behalf of The Satanic Temple (they’re the ones who want to erect a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas in protest of religious favoritism). So I thought it might be a good place to start the ‘promote understanding’ part of my mission statement.

For the sake of simplicity, I think I’ll start with an analysis of a (comparatively) small section of the philosophy – the Nine Satanic Statements, as they are designed to give a general overview of the faith as a whole. What’s more, I’ll be quoting from Anton LaVey’s own Satanic Bible as that is the text my generation is most familiar with. So let’s start from the top with…

“Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”

I mentioned in my revision of the seven deadly sins how I felt that so-called sins like Gluttony, Lust, and, Greed were too strict, too vague, or just plain bogus. And if the near universal image of a Satanist as a religious party animal is any indication, they would seem to agree.

Now, I’ve spoken with practicing Satanists (they’re actually very charming individuals who know how to carry on an enjoyable, friendly debate), and I can safely say that they aren’t expected to indulge in EVERY vice ALL the time. There is still an air of ‘enjoy responsibly’ among them. Really, this statement is more an affirmation to enjoy life and the finer things in it. After all, you can’t play in the middle of the street if you’ve never even seen the far curb.

“Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!”

This seems to deal with the idea in some religions of an eternal reward in some grand afterlife for following the faith to the letter – what we philosophers call ‘Transcendence’.

But as discussed in my combination argument against suicide/love letter to Albert Camus, Transcendental Thinking distracts from the now. There’s just as much proof for the lack of an afterlife as for its existence. As such, it’s a much safer game to live in the moment and use our ‘vital existence’ to do good works NOW rather than sweat over the ‘spiritual pipe dreams’ of a future we can never know.

“Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!”

Again, I’m reminded of my Deadly Sins revision. In it, I listed Delusion as one of the new sins. And in more flowery prose, this seems to agree.

Faith is important; it gives us the strength to continue some days. But it’s important – more so now in the age of social media and ‘fake news’ – to temper faith with doubt. Otherwise, being wrong will feel absolutely right.

“Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!”

This is something my father taught me as a child and I wish I had listened to him sooner. I kept a lot of abusive ‘friends’ and manipulative people in my life for far too long out of a self-imposed obligation to be kind to everyone regardless of what they did to me and I’m still recovering from most of them.

So I’m going to tell you what my dad told me in his exact words, “If someone isn’t contributing to your overall happiness, CUT THEIR F***ING ROPE.”

“Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!”

I’ve never enjoyed taking petty vengeance on people. However, I can say from my experience throughout high school that ‘turning the other cheek’ is just a free license to some people – a message that they can do whatever they want to you with no repercussions.

There is absolutely no shame in defending yourself (in an appropriate and equal fashion, of course) from bullies, thugs, and goons. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to get you to leave yourself open.

“Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!”

Nobody likes a leech. Some people are content to form any number of parasitic relationships with others and bleed them dry rather than try to lift themselves up to a higher standard. I shouldn’t have to tell you that those people should be avoided at all costs, but that’s why I’m saying it to you all.

Still, there had to be a less silly term than ‘psychic vampire.’ I would have gone with ’emotional parasite’ or something.

“Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!”

My mother and I will often joke about how the beasts of the earth are often more sympathetic than people. That said, from a purely scientific and psychological standpoint, I get this.

Humans ARE animals – incredibly exceptional animals with a great capacity for intelligence, but animals all the same. And like any animal, we have our basic drives, needs, and urges. To think we are anything more than that simply by virtue of our perceived intelligence is self-delusion… and we already know how Satanists and I feel about self-deceit.

“Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!”

Well… that’s pretty self-explanatory, init? The Christian Sins forbid indulgence and Satanism is the antithesis of Christianity. Ergo, Satanists embrace the sins of Christianity.

I did go into this in brief when I was pulling apart the philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. But combined with the rest of these statements, it paints a more vivid picture of living for your happiness and comfort rather than those of the ones who would use you.

“Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!”

Heh heh. Clearly, Anton knows it’s always good to end on a laugh – especially a laugh that has a grain of ironic truth to it.


So, Satanists aren’t the cruel, wicked sadists many of us were taught to think they were, are they? Turns out, they care a great deal about human welfare and happiness. And whether you personally follow the faith or not, it may be beneficial to your mental health to try to work their philosophy into your daily life.

Again, if you have a religious philosophy that you would like to see discussed and explained here, please let me know. This is as much an educational journey for me as it is intended to be for those that read this. If there’s enough interest, I’d love to continue this as a series.

The Agent Reviews A Game… UPDATE: The NEW Pokèmon Go

Catching ’em all just got a bit more interesting.
Source: Business Insider

As of the writing of this, we are one week from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of Pokèmon Go. Personally, I hope to hang out at a HUGE meet-up in Nashua, NH while celebrating a friend’s birthday (provided I get the time off).

And just in time for the festivities, Niantic Labs and Nintendo have made some major changes to the game that – in my eyes, at any rate – are much needed and long overdue.

There are three major changes to this year-one update we need to concern ourselves with; the revamped gym battle system, the new raid battle system and some new items to improve gameplay.

The Pokèmon Gyms have been completely rebalanced to encourage a more competitive atmosphere and the changes are simple enough to follow. They are as follows:

  1. Gyms, in addition to their original functions, now also act as special Pokèstops that give additional bonuses if spun by someone of the same team controlling the gym.
  2. The max number of Pokèmon allowed at a gym has been reduced from ten to six.
  3. Pokèmon will defend the gym they are assigned to in the order they have been placed, not by order of CP Level.
  4. No gym may have more than one of the same kind of Pokèmon.
  5. Instead of training to level up a gym to assign more Pokèmon and battling to lower gym levels and remove Pokèmon, a motivation system has been introduced.
    • Frequent defeat will cause a Pokèmon to lose morale – temporarily lowering its CP level until it’s motivation reaches zero and it returns to the owner.
    • Motivation can be restored by feeding any berry to a Pokèmon, thus returning its CP up to its original point and allowing it to defend longer.
  6. When a Pokèmon is removed from a gym, it returns to its owner with a number of Pokècoins to be used in the shop based on the amount of time spent defending.

These changes make the gym battles so much more enjoyable. There’s more of a challenge and incentive to try to defend and maintain gyms, you can’t cheese people with a wall of Snorlaxes or Blisseys, fresh faces are more likely to appear in gyms, and gym defense rewards are applied automatically.

Gyms also serve as the site for the other new addition to the game; raid battles. What is a raid battle? Well, you remember that scene in the trailer where everyone in a major city gathers in the middle of the square to ROFL-stomp Mewtwo? Yeah, it’s like that.

Raid battles are group efforts of up to 20 players to take down a RIDICULOUSLY overpowered Pokèmon – up to and including legendaries – using the same battle mechanics as the gym battles. Should the group be successful, everyone involved is granted a number of Premier Balls (you know, those white Pokèballs you get in the other games for buying other balls in bulk) based on their individual performances. You then get the opportunity to use those Premier Balls to capture the raid boss (note that I said OPPORTUNITY; you can still fail to catch it as with any wild Pokèmon). I sadly didn’t get to join a group, but I did solo a lower level Croconaw that I was fortunate enough to catch with my second ball.

Finally, these raids can also net you new items. They include Golden Razz Berries (a more powerful version of the normal Razz Berry that also fully restores motivation), Rare Candy (used to level up ANY Pokèmon) and Fast and Charged TMs (used to change the fast and charged attacks of your Pokèmon).

So, what do I think of the changes? Well, like I said, these are all changes that the game desperately needed to add challenge and renewed interest in the game. It won’t result in the server-destroying frenzy we saw when the game first dropped, but it has clearly brought some players back to the fold and is catching some fresh eyes.

If I had to complain about anything, it’s that the shop still doesn’t have options to buy stronger Pokèballs beyond the standard model. That would have been the first thing on my list. All you would need to do is give an appropriate price hike for the boost in quality.

Still, you can believe that I’m playing harder than ever before now that this update dropped. I hope to see you out in the field on the anniversary.

Archive News: BRB, Housesitting…

Just real quick, folks. My roommate and our landlady/her boss left me in charge of looking after the homestead this week. So, as to be expected, I’m a bit overwhelmed caring for two houses (complete with pets, gardens, etc.) while juggling work.

What’s more, I’ve been trying to make bigger leaps into the Archive Video Project. I unexpectedly found a reasonably priced camcorder and have been trying to build a decent, makeshift set to record – thus resulting in a major shift from my original vision.

Overall, I just need a day or two to sort everything out and get back on my feet. Hell, I may make a stay-home spa day of it before I have to go to work tonight. I’ll see you all next week.