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A Tangent

by Jason Lightner February 22nd, 2013 | Independent Ideas
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starryAs a cold Philadelphia evening draws to a close, I am reminded of the things for which I am thankful. I am surrounded by good friends, and I live a relatively comfortable life. I enjoy clean water, uninterrupted electricity, and a steady connection to the internet. My pantry contains various different kinds of food from a variety of cultures and my day job affords me the ability to pay my debts on time. The cynic in me says that I’ve got it too good and I needn’t complain while others have got it much worse than I.

But complain I do, day in and day out, about a lack of transparency in government, about oppressed societies, about a blameless public, about police corruption, about a lack of global awareness, about the toxicity of religion, about the silly war on science, and about the disappearance of empathy in a species whose only hope of continuation is the rediscovery of that emotion. My complaints may fall on deaf ears at times, and I may be wrong at times, but as a person who gives a damn, it’s my duty to continue to criticize a flawed world in the hopes that things can improve.

To clarify — things aren’t as bad as a single article or blog post may make them out to be; quite the opposite. For every corrupt Wall Street banker who goes free, for every college-age stoner whose life is ruined by archaic marijuana laws, and for every mother who loses a child in a hail of shrapnel and gore … there are those who are falling in love for the first time, those who are watching their children take their first steps, and there are those who look to the night sky and see limitless potential. Some of us may be lost, but progress is inevitable. Like the waltz of Earth and Luna, like the red storm of Jupiter, and like the churning void at the center of the Milky Way, we press on in our cosmic journey, galvanized by the idea that on the day we die we will leave this world a better place than whence we were born.

I’m sorry if I’ve gone off on a tangent. I find it relaxing to consider these ideas at times when it seems like people have simply lost their freaking minds.

Newsflash: If you’re a college kid and you consider Rush Limbaugh — a misogynistic racist, hypocritical for his drug abuse, and a man who has been married to four different women — your Godfather, then you’ve obviously missed some classes along the way. This explains the regurgitated rhetoric involving the “mainstream media” bogeyman. In reality, FOX News was created as an alternative to MSNBC and CNN, marketed to a demographic that Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch thought was not well represented at the time — the American conservative — in order to take advantage of an untapped market for the sole purpose of raking in the advertising dollars. This was in 1996, mind you, way before MSNBC decided to become the blue FOX, and way before our college kid learned which side of the crib smelled the worst.

As far as the Dorner thing goes — anyone who thinks that the LAPD didn’t drive this guy to go vigilante either didn’t bother to read his manifesto, or — no, that’s basically it. Bro, do you even read? I’m both disgusted and entertained by the persistence with which the victim card is played, especially when the tea party and talk radio (seriously?) are paraded out as targets in the gun violence debate. The media and Congress are too busy worrying about the real threats—video games and heavy metal.

The laughable bit about all this is that at the same time, we’re somehow getting our philosophy from things like Star Trek, which vehemently shunned racism and sexism, and made it a point to champion against imperialism. Let’s not forget, by the way, the pervasive atheist and secular themes shown from the original series where Captain Kirk refers to human religion as “ancient myths,” on up to the Enterprise episode “Chosen Realm,” where they explore the dangers of religion as a means of justifying murder.

Choosing right over wrong without the promise of eternal reward or the fear of eternal pain has its rewards. One such reward is the capacity for critical thought.

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