Reality vs Fantasy

19 11 2012

When I was in High School, I used to spend lots of time creating worlds. I mapped out continents, developed what I thought were internally consistent climate and weather patterns, designed and built centers of population, created languages and religions, and wrote extensive backgrounds (history) for all of the above. All of this was part of my responsibility as game master for my group of friends when we played role-playing games. As I grew older and learned more, my creations grew ever more complex. This had the effect of consuming huge swaths of time which ate into my social life, such as it was. Much of that work was apparently lost on the players in my games, who never seemed to wonder why a particular dungeon was where it was, or why a particular warlord acted the way he did. This took away from my enjoyment of the labor somewhat, but I still enjoyed it. As an intellectual exercise, it requires at least a cursory knowledge of history, geography, geology, linguistics, biology, physics, and a host of other disciplines. Role-playing gaming, then, was the “gateway drug” for a lifelong interest in science.

The point of this blather is not merely shameless self-congratulation. Despite my often intense focus on building “realities” for fantasy universes, I never thought they were real. They were mental playgrounds, a shared experience with my friends in which we could exercise our imaginations, nothing more. My position as game master did not grant me any special status or authority with my friends outside the game, nor did I expect such. The games were fantasy, not reality, and we all knew the difference. As a side note, we never allowed our fantasies to unduly interrupt the reality of such things as girlfriends or parties. All this is as it should be. The fantasies we built and shared during the game were no more than fantasies, and the fantastic realities of “real life” always reigned supreme. Since High School, I have continued to indulge in my hobby of building fantasy worlds, but I am far more intrigued and awed by the sheer spectacle of the real world, which is far more fantastic than anything I’ve created.

That brings me to the real point of this rant. My political views haven’t changed much over the past couple of decades, and I was always considered fairly conservative until the last ten years or so. The “conservative” portion of the US political dimension has shifted so far to the right that I’ve been recently accused of being a democrat. So far, not much of a problem. Political winds are always shifting, and political labels are- in my opinion- largely a waste of time.

The problem arises from the flavor of the red shift. Far too many who call themselves conservatives conflate that term with “religious”, and specifically with a particularly vexatious form of evangelical christianity. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and even try to convince others of the rightness of your beliefs. If I want to believe that the current republican party should rename itself the christian nationalist party, that’s my privilege. Likewise, it is the right of the fanatical christians currently infesting the conservative position on the political graph to consider me a communist because I refuse to allow them to make my country into a theocracy. You have the right to your beliefs, but you don’t have the right to your own facts.

Let us take a look at what makes the US the preeminent military and (for the moment anyway) economic power on Earth. Science, and the technology that pursuit of science gives us is what made the US a superpower. The pursuit of science has enabled and sustains our current extravagant way of life. So why, then, are the christian nationalists republicans so hell-bent on destroying our scientific and technological edge?

Case in point: Current US Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the science and space subcommittee in the US Senate, was recently asked if he knew the age of the Earth. I don’t know about you, but everyone I know could easily answer that question with a modest margin of error- including my teenage niece. Rather than directly answering the question, Senator Rubio decided to try and waffle his way out of the issue. You see, if he had given the right answer (defined as the one with mountains of physical evidence and scientific consensus), he would have angered the christian nationalists, and this would have a deleterious effect on his future political aspirations as part of the christian nationalist party. On the other hand, if he had given the preferred answer of the christian nationalists (the wrong answer), he would anger the entire rest of the voting population. So he waffled, and tried to please both sides. This satisfied no one, of course. Perhaps the Senator should take a hard look at the demographics of the christian nationalists and realize that they are (fortunately) a dying breed, and act like a well-educated US citizen with at least a middle-school grasp of basic science.

And it is basic. You are reading this tripe courtesy of advances in quantum mechanics, astrophysics, and electronic theory. It is a fair bet that at least a few of those reading are eating something recently warmed up in a microwave. That microwave is not powered by magic or witchcraft. If your textured-vegetable-protein burrito got hot when you hit the “start” button on your microwave, then quantum mechanics, physics, and electronics all work the way they’re supposed to. All of those same disciplines work because they’re based on fundamental principles of science developed from observation and experimentation over centuries. Those same fundamental principles also govern the scientific disciplines which tell us the age of the Earth with a fair bit of precision (4.54 billion years, plus or minus about 30 million). All of these disciplines together give us things like the global positioning system satellites, which would not work if those fundamental principles were wrong.

Despite all of this, the rabid god-botherers among us refuse to accept objective reality. They have built a fantasy world wherein bronze-age mysticism is somehow equivalent (or superior) to what they can see with their own eyes. They refuse to believe that their particular version of their sacred texts is anything less than the Laws of the Universe. The fact that they aren’t even following their own texts doesn’t make a lick of difference to these people. They have decided to live in a fantasy world which they like better than the real one.

Okay, so what? They can believe whatever they want, right?

Up to a point. That point is where they try to force the rest of us to live in their fantasy world. The religiously deluded are convinced that they have the duty to force everyone else to believe as they do, and they are working very hard to make their fantasy a reality. Several political candidates in the latest demopocalypse even went so far as to say out loud beliefs they normally don’t mention outside their little circles of like-minded co-religionists. Note carefully that every one of those candidates got treated harshly by the US electorate. Note also that, in the aftermath of the electoral kick in the balls the christian nationalists suffered on November 6th, the refrain from the religious conservatives has not been calls to bring their party in line with objective reality, it has rather been calls to stop saying what they really believe in public.

These people are literally deluded. They really believe that they can enforce their religious totalitarianism on the rest of the country, and they cast their votes accordingly. Altogether, they aren’t that numerous, but they can all be reliably counted upon to vote, and this gives them influence far beyond their numbers. Thus we have a US Senator with possible hopes for a future run for the Presidency trying desperately to avoid causing these irrational people any distress.

If that doesn’t scare you, perhaps you are living in a fantasy world.

Current status: Profoundly irked

Current music: Long Cool Woman by the Hollies

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Telepathic Hookers and Ping Pong

5 11 2012

Relax- I haven’t gone insane. Make that, I’m no more insane than usual. The headline is a tongue-in-cheek  reference to some of the political parties available on various state ballots around the country. As far as I know, there are no “Hooker” parties out there, but there really is a Telepathic party, as well as a Ping Pong party. You may wish to look them up for the lulz.

The reason I mention these political-parties-located-only-in-the-Hubble-Deep-Field of American politics is, of course, the impending electopocalypse tomorrow. I urge you to properly exercise your national franchise and vote, if you haven’t already. There may not be anyone you want to vote for, but there are lots of people worth voting against. The two major party candidates are implicitly included in that last option.

Some people say they refuse to vote, because that implies that they’re buying into one side or another, and they’re all a bunch of crooks. I utterly reject this argument. In the first place, crooks can possibly be converted into productive citizens, where politicians are all irredeemably lost. Secondly, if you are able to vote and don’t, you are basically handing the country’s political future over to the senescent old geeps who have nothing better to do than complain about their kids not calling more often and voting. Don’t believe me? Check out who is actually voting for people like Joe Arpaio- it’s the frightened-into-incontinence old fogies (almost all of whom are white) who are deeply concerned that brown people are after their Hover-Rounds™. They all vote, in every election. Very few of them actually read what they’re voting for, they usually rely on whatever xenophobic nonsense they’ve heard on various AM radio stations or in church. If you don’t vote, then every one of those pasty codgers becomes a major player in every election. You are basically surrendering control of the country to a group of people who think the internet is a series of tubes. Do you really want this country’s political landscape dominated by your senile elderly relative who sends tons of emailed drivel with “fw;fw;fw;fw;fw;” in the subject line?

So, go forth and vote. I don’t care if you vote republican, democrat, libertarian, socialist, communist, albigensian, jedi, left-handed shroom-harvester, independent, or green (note that all but two of those are real political parties), but you must vote. Read up on the candidates and their stated positions before you decide. Don’t listen to speeches, read their policy statements and party platforms. Read up on all the local ballot measures and state initiatives, too. If you can’t be bothered to actually pay attention to what any of the turd sandwiches running for office actually stand for, I have a cheap and easy way to help you decide how to choose. Find some well-meaning fool (this should prove simple, as humanity is amply supplied with such creatures), and ask him or her how they plan to vote. Then vote the other way.

As for me, I plan on writing in a candidate for president of the United States. The person I have in mind is extremely intelligent, passionate, amusing, and not obviously affiliated with any regular political group. The only problem with voting for this person is the very real possibility that his regular job would suffer if he were to win. The person I have in mind is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium. For his running mate, I suggest Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. Between the two of them, they have more intelligence, integrity, and demonstrated usefulness to society than all the other candidates combined. Besides, Dr, Tyson hangs out with Superman.

A lot of people are screeching that a vote for any candidate other than the two main ones is a vote for the other major party candidate. These people are deluded, insecure, or merely well-meaning and wrong. They keep hoping that they can change the major parties by giving them their votes. This is analogous to feeding your arm to a shark in hopes it will be satisfied and go away. If you give a politician your vote, you’re only encouraging the bastards.

One more thing before I sign off- don’t forget that there are several hundred Congress-critters and a couple of dozen Senators up for election this year, too. Those positions may not get all the glamor of the presidency, but they’re the ones who actually run the country. Take a look at your designated Representative and Senators and see how they’ve been voting. If you don’t like what they’ve been doing to the country (and the world) in your name, perhaps it is time to bring in some fresh faces.

Current status: Fed Up

Current music: Life’s Been Good by Joe Walsh