Left, Right, Ambidexterious

So, I recently got into a short “discussion” on Facebook concerning politics in general. The other individual was someone who had voted for Trump and frequently writes post criticizing the opposition. One thing that I found interesting is that he distinguished between being a liberal and being part of the left. The former was generically defined as being a supporter of free speech and tolerance, while being a “lefty” meant to him being an anti american, anti free speech, pro islam, identity politics loving individual.

I have seen the term “rabid left” used in a few other media posts by this individual (and members of his family). To summarize what has popped up in my newsfeed, he and his immediate relations are of the opinion that news sources like CNN are propagators of false information, that Trump’s presidency is in the nation’s best interests, and the majority of those aligned with the democratic party are prone to violent outbursts, attacking free speech, overusing the victim card, and a couple of other things that remind me of what Milo Yiannopoulos used to write in the Brietbart (before that video came went viral and he upset near everyone across the political spectrum). Heck, considering that at least two of them are into creative writing (as well as charming and visually attractive), perhaps one of them could become the next Yiannopoulos.

Anyway, due to the current presidential administration being run by such a polarizing figure who was the center of many controversial topics in recent history, it is not surprising that quite a number of people are being very vocal in their opinions on the matter. Of course, what I would like to know is where they are getting the information they use to back up their opinions.

So, what is the current situation with the left and the right? What does it mean to be “left” or “right” for that matter?

There is a rather long and interesting history of the terms left-wing and right-wing that can be traced back to the French Revolution (apparently they originally referred to literal “wings” of the governing building), but let’s focus on the contemporary definitions in relation to politics and public perception in the US.

For the most part, the left-wing has generally characterized as being composed of those parties that support progressiveness, internationalism, equality in the form of a level playing field, limited governing, and similar values. The right can be generally be characterized by tradition, nationalism, equality in the form of everyone has opportunity to advance, authority, and other mostly conservative values. Whether or not this simplistic, dichotomous explanation can actually be applied to the current political sphere is something I don’t really know (although I think it is obvious that the real situation is much more complex and nuanced; after all, socialism is considered a left-wing value yet historical socialist states have apparently required authoritarian governments to function).

In the contemporary US, there are two main political parties that have the most influence, The Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with the former generally supporting liberal values and the right conservative ones (however, there are plenty of individuals in both parties who do support values that are associated more with the other side).

During the 2016 presidential election, it seemed to me we had a lesser of two evils type of deal. On the one hand, we had Clinton, who was apparently seen as a tool of the establishment and too flexible in her political stance (ironically, she was disliked during the 1990s for being too naive and ideologically rigid). On the other hand, we had Donald Trump, who is famously nationalistic, anti-immigrant, prone to making false statements while accusing the media of making false statements, and rather rude.

Apparently, a lot of people were genuinely shocked by his winning of the election. I know that quite a few friends of mine were in a bad emotional place that Wednesday. It has also apparently instigated violence and irrationality among those viewed as members of the left, if pro-Trump media sources are anything to go by (meanwhile, other media sources–quiet a few of them probably biased in the other direction–will go into great detail about what repercussions Trump’s decisions are generating and how they will screw up the country).

There definitely were quite a few protests after the election, and I expect there to be more in the days to come. There will also continue to be people who strongly condemn or support the actions/goals of those protesting, and there will be a lot of selectiveness in which facts get cited to support predefined opinions (assuming they aren’t skewed in the first place).

I do not think the left has gone rabid. A think that a few fringe groups are definitely engaging in irrational behavior, but for the most part I suspect that people actively critical the current administration are being played up by media more focused on entertainment and pundits who just want to sway your opinion. Also, it seems to me that those of american conservative mindset (and this is just speculation based on only a few observations and second hand accounts) are defined by maintaining some sort of “traditional” set of values, and they view the left as being to cozy with those that would threaten those values, such as members of the LGBT community and immigrants from very different cultures. They are also more likely to trust in an authoritarian government if said government seems like it will protect the nations “fundamental” values. Of course, this is a general observation that does not include liberals who voted for Trump and conservatives who didn’t.

With rural conservatives in particular (I’m from a rural area, as are most of my conservative peers), the main fear seems to be that the interests of the perceived focus of the “left agenda” is centered on the social and economic developments of cities and urban environments with emphasis on social justice for minorities, and that the white-middle class worker has no place in this. If memory serves correct, these people are definitely worried about losing their jobs to corporations and immigrants (although why a billionaire businessman would help with that is beyond me). There were also a few people I am aware of (there are probably much more) who voted for the current president basically because he would shake up things, bringing about any sort change and new developments (for good or ill) that could not be expected from the opposition.

I recently learned about something called Terror Management Theory, which I think kind of explains a lot about human behavior. Basically, humans have the same instincts and drives to survive and avoid that which could kill them, while also having the cognitive ability to recognize that death is inevitable and that there is nothing they can do to change that. Pretty much every belief system ever functions to prevent the sort of mental breakdown that would otherwise result from this contradiction, and is reinforced when faced with reminders of death. Studies were done that show that subliminal exposure to reminders of death cause one to more strongly support their beliefs, while the possibility of ones beliefs being proven wrong results in greater contemplation of mortality. More information has been included in the links below.

The reason that I mentioned this theory is that I think that Trump managed to win in part by feeding into the unconscious desire for immortality that characterizes most belief systems. Any rhetoric of those who seek to destroy our nation is going to eventually tie into the fear of death, while his promise of making the nation “great again” is directly connected to the main ideals of the nationalist’s belief system. Also, the majority of people who voted for Trump were apparently Baby Boomers, people who are either at or past the halfway point of their expected life spans, and the closer one gets to death the more likely it is that they will have strong belief systems to manage their terror (that certainly explains colonoscopies).

Frankly, I think any sort of political victory can be tied to propaganda that takes advantage of the TMT (and I am pretty that anyone else with a brain has already concluded that).

Before 2016, I did not have any particular political views, except that I sympathized more with liberal ideals than conservative (as well as slightly more libertarian than authoritarian). I did not have much more than a passive interest in what was going on with the governing bodies in my country, although I did try to make informed decisions whenever I had to vote for something. These days, I find it difficult to do any sort of research without getting pissed off or assuming that which makes sense to me is actually accurate. I also find it emotionally difficult to get into any sort of discussion without wanting to back out after five minutes. It is also frustrating how biased information can be, as well as how easily I can be swayed about something by that which plays into my own biases and prejudices.

It is natural for people to have differing views of the world, and to align with those that share similar views while classifying the less similar as opposition. Every irrational, emotional tendency can be explained easily as instincts that allowed our ancestors to survive. However, in a world where first impressions are generated based on skewed secondhand reports and sensationalist media, one must strive to keep calm and dig out the facts from the hyperbolic mud. Of course, what one must often differs greatly from what one actually does.

 

Links

http://digital.library.pitt.edu/a/americanleft/about.html

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/left-vs-right-us/

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/07/the_people_who_hate_hillary_clinton_the_most.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/the-left-right-political-spectrum-is-bogus/373139/

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/02/are-conservatives-more-scared-of-stuff-than-liberals.html

https://www.uni-ulm.de/fileadmin/website_uni_ulm/iui.inst.160/Psychologie/Sozialpsychologie/19_Greenberg_Arndt_Terror_Management_Theory.pdf

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Feathers

So I recently watched a pirated recording of the animated film Ice Age: Collision Course. Just like the other Ice Age sequels, it was for the most part silly, idiotic, and immature, and not in any of the ways that I would enjoy. The only reason I watched it in the first place is my nerdiness for all things prehistoric. I’d go on, but I suspect that there are plenty of other geeks on the internet reviewing low quality family entertainment, so why bother?

Though I do have one issue; is it just me, or is a lot of animation marketed towards families with children generally kind of low in both writing and production quality? Granted, what kind of writing one appreciates as a child differs from what one appreciates as an adult, and there are plenty of decent ways one can make use of limited animation, but that should NOT be an excuse to generate subpar content! Then again, I never watched a lot of cartoons when I was physically a child (not by choice), so what do I know? I guess some research will have to be done…

Anyway, Ice Age: Collision Course is a dumb movie with subpar jokes and a mediocre plot, as well as weird-ass interstellar events and anachronistic dinosaurs. However, the dinosaurs might be the one area where I might commend the creators, due to their decision to give those three antagonistic dromaeosaurid characters noticeable plumage.

Known to the general public as “raptors” thanks to Jurassic Park, dromaeosaurids were small to medium-sized predatory dinosaurs notable for their infamous sickle-clawed second toes and their close relationship with birds.

The most famous genus of dromaeosaurid is the genus Velociraptor, due to the usage of the name in the book and film Jurassic Park, which is applied to an animal that physically resembles the larger, geologically earlier, north american genus Deinonychus (Michael Crichton apparently used the name Velociraptor because he thought it was cooler. He might have also been influenced by the crazy cladistics of Gregory S. Paul, whose ideas on dinosaur classification aren’t exactly widely accepted by experts in the field).

When Jurassic Park was being produced, it incorporated all the latest technology and scientific knowledge of the time. When it was released, the audiences were amazed by how realistic the dinosaurs looked. Among other things, it resulted in Velociraptor skyrocketing from obscurity to common household term. However, the creature depicted in the film has little resemblance to the actual animal. For starters, the actual Velociraptor was about 0.5 meters high at the hip, had a very narrow skull, hands that could not pronate, a stiff tale, was probably no where near as intelligent as a primate, and (while this was not known at the time, not to mention too difficult to realistically animate at the time) it was covered in feathers. Not just down either, but full on pennaceous feathers that anchor to its arms like those on a bird’s wing.

Of course, most people associate the name “Velociraptor” with those “cool-looking” reptilian monsters they saw on the screen, and that has shaped portrayals of dromaeosaurs in fiction ever since. Naturally, palaeontologists and people who obsess over the prehistoric are a little miffed about all this, especially with how the rather successful 2015 sequel film Jurassic World did not bother to update the designs of its theropods from the first movie (they did include some new research for the other animals, but you can hardly notice it under the artistic license).

Another film that same year (Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur) generated a lot of hype among the paleophiliac community because it was supposed to feature feathered Velociraptors, only for the actual result to resemble the mohawked raptors from Jurassic Park III; they were just scaly animals with with hair-like structures down their necks and backs. I’m not going to dismiss this as it just being a cartoon; the animation and landscape rendering is so freaking gorgeous! If they could have spent that much effort on the imagery, they could have put more research into the character designs!

The closest real-life equivalent to the JP raptors that ever existed is arguably the recently discovered species Dakotaraptor steini (with genera like Utahraptor and Achillobator being close seconds). Roughly 5 meters long and with proportion similar to Deinonychus, Dakotaraptor was a late cretaceous predator from South Dakota that coexisted alongside (and competed for prey with) the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex. Studies of its forelimbs show that it had prominent wing feathers, which might have been used for display, sheltering eggs, balance when jumping on prey, and/or gliding during infancy.

The dromaeosaurids featured in the Ice Age film were probably based on Dakotaraptor, due to the time it was discovered and the hype it generated. Like the actual animal, they are bird-like animals covered with plumage and with functionable wing feathers on their forelimbs. However, they also have pronating hands and scaly stomachs, lack primaries, and are capable of flight, something no dromaeosaurid their size has any business doing. So, while I give the creators props for doing some research, I am not going to give them full marks due

A completely accurate depiction of Dakotaraptor (as accurate as current evidence allows, anyway) will be featured alongside other denizens of the Hell Creek formation of South Dakota in the up-coming video game Saurian, which aims to provide players with a truly authentic experience living as a dinosaur 65 million years ago. After watching some promotional material, I have to admit that these guys really did their homework when designing the dinosaurs.

Based on recent depictions, I’m kind of hoping that there will be a growing trend towards more realistic depictions of dromaeosaurs (and other prehistoric animals, of course) in popular media, a trend that I am expecting Saurian to initiate. For there not to be would seem to me like stagnation, and I abhor stagnation.

The website for Saurian can be found among the links below. More information about how dromaeosaurs actually looked vs how the media commonly portrays them can also be found below.

Dinosaurs As They Really Are

A Velociraptor Without Feathers isn’t a Velociraptor

Science Daily – Velociraptor had Feathers

Ice Age Wiki: Dino-Bird

Saurian Website

Talking About the Weather

According to NASA, 2016 was the warmest year on record (with the records stretching back to the late 1800), and the third year in a row to set a new record for global temperatures. The average global temperature was calculated to be about .99 degrees Celsius  above the mid-20th century mean, with the average global temperature being 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than it was during the late 19th century (coincidently, the industrial revolution happened during the middle of the 19th century).

This is a calculated global average based on data recorded across the planet; in a lot of places, weather dynamics meant that local temperatures did not get record-breaking high. The majority of the United States was not one of those places. Thanks to an El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific (meaning that the ocean was abnormally warm out there), Nearly all states experienced higher than average weather that was well above their 20th century means (Georgia was the only one to set a new record, though).

At the time of this post, I’m living in a relatively elevated area around western NY, and the last few weeks started out somewhat ridiculously mild (if I had wanted to, I could have gone outdoor sunbathing out on the mountain side during a weekend in early January), but are now properly cold and snowy. The dissipation of the El Niño means that this year should be cooler for North America than the last one; after the blizzard I trudged through to get back to my dorm, I am not too surprised.

NASA, NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally

2016 Was Second Warmest Year on Record in Us

What are El Niño and La Niña?

Being Antisocial

When I was a teenager, I was somewhat of a loner; I kept to myself, rarely socialized, and was rather quiet and laconic. To some, I might have even seemed avoidant or unfriendly (although I did have a few friends with whom I would let my guard down). Unsurprisingly, I would occasionally be referred to as “antisocial” by my peers, which everyone ( including myself) generally used as a synonym for  words like “aloof”, “introverted”, and “shy”.

Turns out those words are only synonymous with the colloquial definition of the word. The proper definition of antisocial (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary) is “averse to the society of others” or “hostile or harmful to organized society”. In other words, it is used to designate disruptive or delinquent activities or entities (unorganized crime and the like, I guess).

Learning the dictionary’s definition of antisocial lead to a websearch of the term, which immediately lead me to Antisocial Personality Disorder.

ASPD is basically a mental condition where a person consistently exhibits a complete disregard for social taboos and the well-being of others. Symptoms include a lack of empathy and remorse, the manipulation of others for gain or pleasure, impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead, hostility and violent/aggressive behavior, an arrogant sense of superiority, irresponsible and deceitful behavior, and abusive relationships. Naturally, people with ASPD tend to engage in behavior such as theft, vandalism, assault, and the like. A person with ASPD will have likely been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder during childhood and early adolescence (in fact, evidence of CD is apparently required for an ASPD diagnosis).

While people who have ASPD often get called psychopaths or sociopaths, there apparently are definitive differences between these terms, although there is no reason why someone with psychopathy or sociopathy cannot have ASPD as well.

For the most part, all three conditions share similar symptoms (lack of empathy, manipulative behavior, etc.). As far as I can tell, the main difference between psychopathy and sociopathy is that the latter is the product of genetics and neurological abnormalities (part of their brain does not work) while sociopathy is apparently the result of environmental influences coupled with a possible predisposition towards antisocial behavior. Sociopathy is a somewhat informal term that used to be a synonym for psychopath, but these days is more likely to designate a non-psychopath with ASPD, which is apparently a relatively broad category in which psychopathy sits as a specific subset. At the same time, people with ASPD are defined as being unable to confirm to societal mores, whereas there are cases of people who fit the profile for psychopathy and are able to live rather normal, non-disruptive lives. Interestingly, a couple studies show that criminals with both psychopathy and ASPD tend to be worse offenders then those with just ASPD.

Psychopathy, being the result of genetic deviance, probably does not have a cure that does not involve brain surgery. There is very little information on whether or not Antisocial Personality Disorder by itself can be cured, since most people with it are not the type to seek out treatment.

There is still some debate on the differences between psychopathy and ASPD, as well as the proper numbers of people who have both or either.

What is certain is that shy, introverted people do not really fit the generally profile of someone with ASPD.

Note: ASPD is applied to someone who persistently engages in anti-social behavior, which is basically any activity that is considered (at the least) to be socially inappropriate, or that displays disregard for the well being of others. It still does not seem really applicable to quiet, background people (except from the point of view of those who consider loners to be freaks).

 

Sources:

Merriam-Webster

Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder – Brito and Hodgins

What is a Psychopath?

Anti Social Behavior

Anonymity and Men in Grey

I used to share an apartment with a cousin of mine named Graeme (he moved in with his fiancée not too long ago). Graeme is a rather mild-mannered, introverted math major who generally presents himself as a tolerant and thoughtful individual. He is also an avid hunter, fisherman, and all around outdoorsman. Basically, he is good at observing the physical world around him without disturbing it.

It was Graeme who introduced me to the concept of the “Grey Man” back in 2011 (he had apparently chosen the term for his instagram handle). A grey man apparently is someone who does not stand out from the background, who is able to not draw attention to themselves and whatever skills or resources they possess. He (or she, or xe) is generally well prepared for any sort of problem and deliberately acts and dresses in manner that leaves practically no impression. Basically, it seems like a term applicable to a successful spy or a survivalist in hostile territory (unsurprisingly, it is quite a popular concept on various blogs and forums centered around survival theory, disaster scenarios, and possibly the US constitution’s second amendment; links to some that I found are located below).

Naturally, the professional, pragmatic anonymity of a grey man is much different from the anonymity of a mob, a mask, or a web account, where people who just happen to have their identity obscured feel the need to behave in a most noticeable manner. When one’s identity is hidden (or if one thinks that their identity is hidden), then one may behave in a less inhibited manner.

In the case of the internet, there is the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory”, which is referred as the Online Disinhibition Effect” in more polite circles. When communicating with someone online, you cannot physically perceive them, nor can you really expect any immediate or severe consequences for what you might say. Therefore, you are less likely to censure whatever message you want to give. Naturally, this has happened even with people on social media who use their real names and share the site with people they know in real life.

Incidentally, general lack of inhibition means that people online are more prone to being flirty and affectionate as well as full of rage and obnoxious opinions. On an unrelated note, disinhibition in general is found in psychopaths (at least according to Wikipedia).

An individual can and will also act with less inhibitions in the physical world when they are part of a larger crowd. The anonymity of being part of a larger whole results in deindividuation, a term that I learned recently refers to lessening of individual identity in favor of blind obedience to a group goal. The size of the group makes it easier to lose the distinctions of individuality and lesson any individual feelings of responsibility, which means each individual has experienced a reduction of risk apprehension and similar behaviors. It is through deindividuation that ordinary people become looters, form lynch mobs, and give in to crowd hysteria.

The wearing of masks, especially identical masks, probably increases the amount of deindividuation and resulting disinhibition that occurs. For the record, I think that deindividuation is required to get soldiers to function properly in a unit, and can potentially be used effectively in nonviolent protesting as well (if the crowd’s objective is to be peaceful, then everyone is going to be peaceful, dammit!).

Obviously, the masking of identity involved in a mindless mob or online antagonisms is antithetical to the grey man, who deliberately crafts and utilizes their anonymity to further a longterm goal of survival, rather than winding up in circumstances where a person feels that they can safely give into their short-term impulses. One of a grey man’s objectives is to avoid the attention of the deindividuated mob.

On the subject of my cousin, Graeme used the moniker for his social media account as a joke about his tendency to stick to the background and go unnoticed when people watching, as well as his decent survival skills. However, he does have an online persona that differs somewhat from his “normal” one. While not an asshole, Graeme is definitely more prone to sarcasm online than he is on real life, and is slightly more willing to share opinions on political and social matters (he also likes to post images and links related to mothman, MIBs, and similar spookiness, mostly due to the fact that “Grey Man” also happens to be the name of a famous ghost, and he thinks it would be in character for his pseudonym to like such things). For the most part, he is still laid back and non-impulsive; he just happens to be developing a distinct online alter-ego as well.

Fortunately, Jekyll and Hyde situations probably have no basis in reality (but I will investigate, just in case…)

 

Sources from which I gained information:

Gray Man Strategies 101: Peeling Away the Thin Veneer of Society

Becoming The ‘Gray Man’: 10 Ways to Blend In and Survive

How To: The Modern Grey Man Philosophy

How the Internet Created an Age of Rage

The Online Disinhibition Effect

Deindividuation

You Are Not So Smart – Deindividuation

Coastal Observer: The Grey Man

 

 

Purpose

Call me Dan. I am a random human male who dwells on the continent of North American.

Like most people, what I don’t know about the world at large figuratively dwarfs what I do know, and a lot of what I know is generally biased or incomplete to some degree.

Seven days prior to this posting, I came to the conclusion that a lot humans of my generation and region are neither strongly motivated to overcome their ignorance, nor are they particularly active members of society. Unfortunately, I can’t say that this conclusion doesn’t apply to me.

This blog will be an infrequently updated documentation of myself trying to improve upon myself in these two areas, as well as others. For the most part, posts will consist of somewhat informal essays and reports of things learned and questions in need of answering. Hopefully, my distaste for leaving projects unfinished will keep me motivated to not abandon this one.

Due to my status as a post-secondary student, blog updates will probably not be that frequent (not in the long run, anyway).