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.

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.

The Agent on YouTube’s Restricted Mode and The Value Of Uncensored Debate

“This video is restricted because some people can’t handle a mature critical discussion on some topics. Sorry about that.”
Source: The Independent

What is this; the third – maybe fourth time I’ve had to weigh in on a YouTube policy change? You guys could circumvent a lot of this bulls*** if you just gave us some details before you made the change.

Anyway, for those of you not keeping up with the new media, YouTube recently went live with a new ‘Restricted Mode’ feature that had some, shall we call it, unforeseen effects.

The goal of Restricted Mode is to give viewers the option to hide content that some may deem as questionable such as violence, profanity or sexual situations. And believe it or not, I totally understand why they would want to do this.

Let’s not forget, YouTube is a business first and foremost. Their first priority is to placate their advertisers, shareholders, and viewers. So, anything that might be counter-intuitive to an advertiser/viewer’s interests – say having their ad for a new children’s movie just before a video of a particularly foul-mouthed Let’s Player who uses f-bombs like vocal punctuation or having their five-year-old stumble upon the same – might scare them away.

But, the problem arises from what kind of content gets blocked when Restricted Mode is active; namely people weighing in on LGBT politics. Most of them are not even talking about gay sex, mind you; They’re just chiming in on the politics of queer culture.

I think the problem is pretty obvious and it’s a problem that asexuals like myself encounter routinely – people conflating relationships with sex. YouTube saw the phrase ‘LGBT’ show up and just ASSUMED it was about sex without actually checking the content. I assure you, talking about romance or being in love doesn’t AUTOMATICLY imply someone is bumping uglies and we need to stop think like it does.

Of course, this wave of (very likely) accidental anti-LGBT censorship is endemic of a bigger problem that I have with YouTube’s Restricted Mode and censorship in general. Simply put, I’m against censorship because is restricts discourse from both sides of a debate and thereby halts social progress. It’s a pretty simple chain of logic to follow; if neither side is allowed to talk about something, how can they debate it in order to solve any problems with it?

It’s for this reason that I support YouTubers like Count Jackula who dedicate regular live-streams to debates with fans and fellow creators or Armored Skeptic who often makes debunking videos pointing out logical fallacies in other people’s arguments. Yes, things often get very heated, people will get offended, and I frequently disagree with them on at least one point. But at the end of the day, they offer a perspective that made me think and that surge of critical thought is what we need more than anything else in this societal landscape.

That having been said, I can still see where YouTube is coming from in terms of business. It needs some kind of system to please the people that make them money. So, what we need is a common ground… and I think I have it.

Firstly, STOP CONFLATING RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEX. I will scream this 24/7 until I go mute from the scar tissue building up on my larynx.

Secondly, I suggest giving more control to what shows up in viewer searches by employing a sort of ‘ADVANCED Restricted Mode’ that allows the user to select what kind of content gets filtered out based on what they personally don’t want to see. It’s not ideal and those people will still be very likely to miss out on mind-expanding discussions, but it’s probably the best we can do until we can build that utopian society where people’s anuses don’t slam shut like steel security vault doors everytime they hear something that threatens their fragile reality.

The Dying Art of Debate and Why We Need To Save It

See these dumbasses? They're doing it wrong. Source: Eligible Magazine

See these dumbasses? They’re doing it wrong.
Source: Eligible Magazine

Just a quick one while I’m bouncing back from a nasty cold.

Unsurprisingly, given the recent string of political events around the world, my Twitter and Facebook news feeds have been clogged with a depressing amount of posts calling other people stupid with little to no facts given – Just a seemingly endless stream of name-calling and bile-spitting.

That’s when I stopped to ask myself, “why don’t people debate anymore?”

I touched on this lightly on my Thanksgiving vacation announcement, but I wanted to go into it more here. It seems that people are genuinely afraid to debate back and forth on issues and fall back on schoolyard taunting these days and I want it to stop.

This is just me spitballing ideas based on my own experiences, but I feel the problem is that people look a debate as a win-lose game rather than a combination mutual education session and problem-solving process. Each side is convinced that they have to win because the other is ignorant, evil, or worse. So rather than work things out in a civil manner, they demonize each other to avoid debate and achieve easy success by shaming each other.

We see it every day; Democrats think Republicans are under-educated buffoons clinging to guns and religion when they’re just honestly worried about how deviation from tradition will affect them. Republicans think Democrats are spineless children crying over how everything offends them when they just want a country that anyone could be happy and honored to live in. People keep turning to broad generalizations of the opposing side rather than actually getting to know what they want.

Look, I get it; debating is hard work. I know; I had to do it to graduate college. But it’s honestly the best system we have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We need to stop seeing it as a battle and understand that debate should be an intellectual growth event for all parties involved. If one or both people have left a debate unchanged from the time they started, then they both failed to do their job.

That’s why I say not to shy away from a debate when it comes your way. It’s a chance to edify yourself as well as someone else. Who knows, the two of you may stumble upon a way to fix the world.

Remember; the chaos of debate may be uncomfortable and intimidating, but those choppy waters never go stagnant.

Feminist vs. Pro-Feminist: Thoughts On a Trend In Gender Politics

To call this guy “Pro-Feminist” would be an insult to my 3rd favorite game, one of my top ten favorite voice actors, and the noble sportsman’s hobby of EXPLOSIONS!
Source: thevirtuallyunreal.tumblr.com

Recently, I was introduced to a fascinating new idea in the fight for gender equality. Apparently, there are some fresh young minds out there that are attempting to use language to strengthen the fight for equality between the sexes.

In essence, some people feel that by having men call themselves Feminists, it detracts from the efforts of women in the Feminist community that the school of thought was intended to help and empower. However, they also don’t want to take away from the men who actually try to make things fair for everyone. To that end, some people have started encouraging male Feminists to start calling themselves “Pro-Feminists” instead.

Before I get into my usual criticism, I’d just like to say that I understand the thinking here. People want to celebrate the women that Feminism was made for. That’s a perfectly noble cause and I feel their hearts are in the right place.

However, I can’t help but see a few potential problems with this new set-up.

First, for all of the concern about language diminishing the efforts of women that started this movement, supporters of this change seem to have missed how they flipped the issue 180 degrees on to men now. By using the phrase Pro-Feminist to describe male Feminists, a person seems to be implying (however unintentionally), that men can’t be useful to the cause and be a part of the team. It makes men look like an other in society and creates the atmosphere of “no boys/girls allowed” that Feminism was meant to challenge and destroy.

Also, I feel like the word implies a sense of laziness or apathy to a person. A Feminist sounds like someone who actively tries to fight for equality; a Pro-Feminist sounds like someone who’s into the idea, but can’t be arsed to actually do any work for it. And remember who’s saying this; as a creative writer, radio personality, journalist, public speaker, and stage performer, I know how important it is for a word to sound just right.

Lastly, this new language ignores how much good Feminism does for men as well as women. For example, every time a guy gets bullied and taunted by being emasculated with feminine slurs (i.e., being called a bitch, a p***y, a c***, ETC.) or is criticized for being “too girly”, that throws every woman under the bus as well by implying that feminine is bad. It may be called feminism, but it’s meant to help EVERYONE be equal to each other regardless of their gender or the gender roles they choose for themselves.

In short, I personally feel there’s nothing wrong calling yourself a Feminist regardless of your gender. All that title means is that you believe in striving for a society that doesn’t judge a person’s value or force roles on them based on their gender. Perhaps what we really need is to change the word “Feminism” to reflect that belief a little better.

Of course, this movement in language is still young and anything could happen. I await your thoughts on the subject, world.

A Matter of Time: Is Daylight Saving Time Actually Helping Us?

Wait, does this mean we technically traveled back in time?
Source: HDWallpapersFan.net

It’s hard to believe that more than week after setting our clocks back, I’m still feeling drained and tired trying to get used to the transition from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard time.

A co-worker and I found ourselves discussing this and I started asking the question of whether or not this convoluted time management shenanigans actually does anyone any good.

Proponents of DST argue that the change in the clocks does good for people because A) it allows them to get more hours of sunlight during the summer and B) it conserves energy by having people up and about during those sunlit hours instead of running artificial light.

First off all, changing the clock doesn’t actually change the number of hours of sunlight (You mean we don’t have mutant powers that let us alter the physics of our planet and the sun? Say it ain’t so!), it just tricks you into waking up at a different point in the day where the sun is more prominent in the sky.

Still, the idea of making people get some healthy sunshine is a noble cause… or it would be if some places didn’t already get tons more of the stuff than others. It’s unsurprising then that many places closer to the Equator refuse to recognize DST. Even within our own country, Arizona and Hawaii don’t move the clocks forward in May because they have sunny beach weather nearly year-round.

As for the argument of energy conservation, this may have worked in the past, but now modern advances in technology are reducing that benefit if not removing it entirely. We still run air conditioners and electric fans in the summer which use much more energy than even the most primitive tungsten light bulbs.

Also, where light bulbs are becoming more energy efficient thanks to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), what little advantage DST gave us in conserving energy is becoming minimal at best.

But, the real concern here is how DST complicates things. For starters, regularly changing the clock interrupts natural sleeping habits and can lead to sleep-deprivation related illnesses which are already a big problem in the U.S.

Also, in a world of increasing reliance on global telecommunications, the combination of differing time zones and DST rules makes it difficult for people working in different countries to coordinate with one another. Because not all places follow DST and those who do change their clocks at different times, the number of hours ahead or behind one location is from another is in a near constant flux.

And as if that wasn’t an already ridiculous example of failing to pin down the flow of time, because Arizona is also home to the Hopi and Navajo Reservations and since the Navajo Reservation recognizes DST while the Hopi Reservation doesn’t, it’s actually possible to be forced go through seven clock changes just by traveling in one 100-mile straight line.

So, when it comes time to set the clocks forward again, I’m sure we’ll have this debate again. But, hopefully one day we can agree to a universal measure of time that will fix this mess. In the meantime, I’m just going to try get back on a regular schedule.

How To Debate Without Being A Jerk

Maybe not, but one can learn to make them more pleasant.
Source: wellspentjourney.wordpress.com

So, I’ve noticed a rather upsetting trend lately as I followed some of my favorite personalities online. It seems that few people know the etiquette of debate.

Now, this is not focused on anyone person. This is a problem that has sprung up on many occasions with many people. I don’t want this to feel like an attack on people. This is a legitimate plea for civility among intelligent people.

I think most of the problem can be traced to the focus of debate. Far to often when civil debate goes awry, it seems that the conflict is focused less on the topic brought up and more the person who brought it up.

When someone online offers a position other than one you prescribe to, it’s perfectly fine – helpful even – to offer your own views. That’s how we learn and expand our knowledge. It’s not okay to decry a person as subhuman garbage and debate the person’s worth. Seriously, it’s embarrassing how many videos there are out there on YouTube and posts on Twitter calling people out for their views and theories that focus on their hatred of the person without providing any factual rebuttals.

As for the people on the receiving end of this vitriol, you have a role to play as well. Fortunately, your job is very simple – don’t encourage them. I’ve seen many people make the mistake of replying to unenlightened forum troll and retweeting acidic Twitter posts. This has the effect of dragging you through the same muck they dwell in. I realize this sounds like the sort of stuff your teachers and parents parroted to you as a child, but when your credibility is on the line, few things are worse than being just as rude and barbaric as the people making fools of themselves just to get at you.

It’s quite simple – debate ideas; not people. Debating ideas is how we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Debating people is how we start fights that inevitably end in pain, shame, and ruined images that last the rest of our lives.