Image credit here: http://darkblackswords.deviantart.com/art/Sword-Art-Online-Logo-Black-323166130

Artemis Davidson – Mind Meets Money, Medicine, and Morals: Sword Art Online, Pushing for a Physicalist Philosophy of Mind?

A deadly game has begun. Kirito and thousands of other players have been trapped within the Virtual Reality MMO called Sword Art Online. Kayaba Akihiko, the game’s creator, has removed the ability to log-out from the game as well as to revive fallen party members. The only way to return to the real world is to clear the game by defeating the bosses found on each of the game’s 100 floors. But there is a sinister catch—if a person’s game character dies, then he or she also dies in real life. So, for the first time, death in a video game means death in real life.

With such a harrowing specter cast over the entire frame of the VRMMO, panic is bound to ensue. Mistrust is bound to breed like lice. Video game exploitation is bound to take on a nefarious hue. But what about the mechanism that causes death for the players? What, if anything, does that mechanism say about the type of philosophy of mind present in SAO? Given the circumstances surrounding the nature of game-related death in SAO, it seems that SAO is subtly pushing for a physicalist theory of mind.

I. A Lesson in Philosophy of Mind: Presented by Sword Art Online’s Villains

Image credit: http://www.reddit.com/user/bnewell1

Consider the scene when Kayaba Akihiko informs his little pawns that they are all prisoners in a death game. In this scene (pictured above), Kayaba Akihiko tells all the players that they will not be able to log-out of the game until someone clears it. On top of that, he tells the players that if anyone tries to remove their NerveGear (the device that creates the nearly realistic virtual world) in the real world, a microwave burst will be sent through their NerveGear and into their brains, which will completely fry their brains. In other words, if they try to manually escape the death-trap, they will find death all the same.

When all the drama is peeled back from this scenario, a physicalist theory of mind seems to emerge. After all, what is a human being without a well-functioning (or, at the very least, functioning) brain? Everyone acknowledges that if Klein were to take a microwave burst directly to the brain, he would most likely not survive and, even if he did, he would be seriously impaired. So, if the brain is lost, then the life is also lost. That seems to be the dominant philosophy of mind that is being pushed in SAO.

Image credit: http://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/2b52vw/spoilers_sword_art_online_ii_episode_3_discussion/?limit=500

Consider another rather harrowing example from Sword Art Online, though. In this rather disturbing scene, Sugou (pictured above as his VRMMO counterpart King Oberon) announces that he has been conducting experiments on 300 human minds that are trapped within the ALfheim Online (another VRMMO). He has worked on inducing emotions, altering memories, and even creating/implanting memories and emotions. Also, note the words he uses in what he thought was his victory speech: I’ll achieve what no one ever has, control of the human soul. What Sugou is essentially saying, then, is that the “human soul” is just the brain: by altering the brain, he alters the subject’s soul; by controlling the brain, he controls the subject’s “soul.” In other words, the soul is reduced to the brain.

So, in both cased, the villains in the anime are pining for the same philosophy of mind: physicalism. Now, as was discussed in the Philosophy of Mind Series, there are many different varieties of physicalism. These different versions of physicalism entail somewhat different consequences for our understanding of the mind and the world as a whole. What seems to be happening in SAO, though, is a reductionist physicalism, where mental properties and states just are brain states. In other words, if the pain region lights up in the brain, then that particular brain is in a pain-state (Now, whether or not the host of that brain is conscious of the pain is another matter entirely).

We even see this reductionist account represented in the anime. When Asuna sneaks out of her cage and accidentally enters the lab, she finds holograms of brains floating above canister/pod-type apparatuses. Each of the 300 brains she saw had different regions lighting up in response to different kinds of stimuli. An indicator was also shown next to the region that highlighted things like “fear” or “pain” or “excitement.” After seeing these experiments, Asuna concludes, “They’re suffering!” Her reaction coupled with the presentation of the experiment Sugou and his henchmen were doing strongly supports a reductionist theory of mind. Furthermore, given the indicators and identifiers presented, it almost seems like the villains in Sword Art Online are pushing for the mind-brain identity theory, where the “mind,” this nebulous thing that we constantly reference as if it is somehow distinct from nature, is just the brain, properly understood.

II. What Remains to Be Explained?

On this understanding of the mind, what is left for the “soul stuff”? If the soul is independent of the mind, then why does a person’s personality change when he suffers brain damage? The “soul” does not get hurt along with the brain, right? So, shouldn’t the personality remain intact? In theory, shouldn’t it be possible for a person to survive significant injury as long as his or her soul remains intact? Why is it, then, that no “soul” has ever kept a person alive after brain failure? What “syncs” the soul to the brain—or even to the body? Does that type of explanation even make sense? (See the post on Dualism in the Philosophy of Mind series for a discussion on this topic.)

According to the villains’ philosophy of mind, the real question to be answered is: what remains to be explained? Their accounts of philosophy of mind seem to explain everything that needs to be explained. Talk about “souls” or “soul stuff,” though, only seems to complicate the matter and provide us with a lot more seemingly unsolvable mysteries than potential answers. So, as theorizing goes, if one theory explains a lot and another theory makes the issue more complicated but does not explain nearly as much as the first theory, then shouldn’t the second theory (in this case, “soul stuff”) be thrown out? Or does Sword Art Online try to resolve this question for us?

III. The Loophole

SAO, as a good anime should, complicates this question of which philosophy of mind is being advanced in the story. The little caveat that SAO throws in, though, comes in the final battle between Heathcliffe and Kirito. Kirito has been defeated, his HP dropped to zero, and his “data” shatters—but then, suddenly, his data re-materializes and he is able to slay Heathcliffe. Apparently, Kirito surpassed the “laws” of the game’s world through sheer willpower alone. In fact, right when Kirito is about to admit defeat to Sugou (while Suguo is…doing creepy and terrible things to Asuna) in ALO, Kayaba appears to Kirito and says, “Our battle showed me the power of the human will.” And, of course, Kirito is then able to overcome Sugou’s Gravity Magic and completely dominate Sugou.

So, those wrinkles in the story leave us with the following questions: what is will? How does it work? What bearing does it have in our life if the proverbial “soul” is nothing but a dated way of referring to the brain? Does Kirito represent a different understanding of mind (or, a different philosophy of mind)? If so, does that mean that one of the real messages of Sword Art Online is the battle between physicalist and non-physicalist (maybe even dualist) accounts of mind, of what it is to be human? If SAO is understood in lines of that last question, then the anime takes on a whole new meaning and the conflicts mean something entirely different. In a sense, then, SAO could be said to depict a struggle between Modernism and Post-Modernism on one hand and traditional and ancient understandings on the other.

To borrow a line from USA’s former hit show Psych, “I’ve heard it both ways.” I will let you decide what to do with the information and the various interpretations presented in this entry. Which one do you think is better? What do you make of the “aims” of the villains juxtaposed with the fascinating wrinkle of Kirito’s “will”?

 

 

 

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Wandering Falcon – Anime Review: Shin Sekai Yori, (From the New World)

Humanity is a strange beast. As should be apparent to all of us lowly apes that make up its presence. This week I bring you news from the new world, a fiction of the far future that examines all we’ve echoed in the past.

Shin Sekai Yori was first a novel by Yusuke Kishi, published in 2008 to award-winning acclaim. As is the way with many such things it was quickly adapted into manga form between May 2012 and June 2014 and into an anime aired between September 2012 and March 2013. I only watched this anime adaption, drawn to it by my usual siphoning of vaguely positive whispers from the great web. Production for this screened gold came from A-1 pictures, home of such entities as Sword Art Online, Fairy Tail, Black Butler and Persona: Trinity soul. It’s director is one Masashi Ishihama who is not known to me and seems to not have many other directing credits, though has had a wide variety of roles in other productions. Setting wise the story straddles that thin line between the traditional genres of fantasy and sci-fi that is becoming common these days, the point where technology is so advanced it becomes magic so to speak. If it was to be considered a Frankenstein monster of other creations, as of course all art is to some degree, I’d describe it as Akira meets Attack on Titan. Deeply philosophical sci-fi overlaid with lessons and imagery from the past and searching questions about the nature of humanity.

Now I always  to avoid ‘spoilers’ in my jaded little review pieces here, but sometimes a creative work centres almost entirely around the strength of its story, and thus that is what must be discussed to describe it. I will endeavour my utmost not to ruin anything, but this really is an artwork that is best entered empty minded. So I will say this: if you just want the name of an anime to watch, with the only pre-text being whether it’s worth your time… Shin Sekai Yori. Watch it. It good. If you remain, I will assume you either don’t mind a few hints to later surprises or need more persuading to spend your time here.

If I had to pick one phrase to describe Shin Sekai Yori it would be thus: Brutally, morally disconcerting. This is an anime that walks into your home, into your built-up preconceptions and narrative expectations, smiles pleasantly… and then slaps you right in the face. What else should you have expected from a stranger entering your home? It is a reply to the generation brought up in the aftermath of Battle Royale, The Matrix and The Hunger Games and any number of those other tales of plucky young revolutionaries facing the oppressive over-reach of authoritarians. It stands up and says yes, abuse of power and discriminatory indoctrination of youth are the hideous dehumanising endgame of right-wing ideology, but what if such was necessary? What if there truly was too much freedom in the potential of individuals to a degree that they could utterly decimate the society around them through no fault of their own. Heavy food for thought certainly, and even to an outrageously liberal thinker like myself, a much needed refreshing approach to a tired narrative trope. This is an anime that ends with the main characters stating the age old humanism, ‘Our society is a mess now but at least we have hope it’ll get better.’ Only in a setting 1000 years in the future. Which strangely echoes past tragedies. While completely assimilating into everything they’ve been contending with. To the point of raising child-eating tigers while looking to the birth of their own first-born. It is a horrifically well-orchestrated cycle, keeping your moral compass spinning endlessly one way or another with absolutely no intention of resolving either side into such a ridiculous idea as ‘good guys or bad guys’. It doesn’t even leave you with the vaguely gratifying ‘they had no other choice’ option used by other morally ambiguous stories these days. For every heroic sacrifice another character will act selfishly to the great detriment of others, why? Because that is part of human nature too. Does that make that one character a bad person, not necessarily no, just a less confident one.

Shin Sekai Yori is an anime that does things decidedly its own way, from openly displaying homosexual relations to starkly crushing ‘the underdog is always right’ ideals. It is a deeply unsettling look at humanity that pulls no punches and gives no answers, all hidden under such a familiar ‘magic-school’ setting as to strike even closer to home and heart. It is not perfect, exposition dumps and suddenly appearing characters speak of ‘was once a novel’ syndrome, but it’s narrative and characters more than make up for this. This is a must-see for those tired of predictable, one direction visions into the darkness of utopian fiction… but may leave a bad taste in the mouth for weeks after as you look out upon our collected specie.

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Maestro – Competing: How I’ve Come to View It

Since I’m competing this Thursday, I thought it would be a good time to release some tension by writing down some thoughts. In general, I like this practice. There are studies that have shown that 10-15 minutes of journaling a day relieves stress, and other studies suggest that reducing stress increases the length of one’s life expectancy. Just sayin’.

I’ll just start by saying that I like competition. This likely is a result of my laziness and simultaneous realization that I require a goal at all times (if you’re also lazy, I suggest that: make a short term goal, all the time). Some people like to compete, others don’t at all. Disclaimer: it’s not the thought of beating people that motivates me. “Wouldn’t it be cool to win?” is a thought that resonates with me, and it increases my determination. However, my leisure to think this way partially illustrates the strangeness of artistic competition.

In sports, there’s a definite score and definite rules and a single, definite interpretation of the results of the competition. If someone beats you to the finish line, you can dispute that as much as you can dispute losing your basketball game 8-12. In sports, you have no choice but to focus on getting ahead of your opponents.

But for the arts, you are dependent on judges who give you some arbitrary, mental, rarely written score. And usually you don’t get your results until you get home. Each competitor is isolated from one another inside the audition room. You don’t exactly have an opponent: if you do, he’s a slippery, gripless, variable unknown. Consider that, all the time, even the best and worst people have up days and down days: someone whom you thought was pretty “meh” could win a spot on national radio. You never know. So there’s no point worrying about it.

Regardless, it is completely possible to treat your competitors like they really are a bag of meat wearing a jersey on a big, green field. And some people do. Now, where I live, all the music students know each other. I participated in a competition last spring in which one of the competitors (whom none of us knew) came out of the audition room and said to one of my friends, “I won,” and stalked off. Horribly rude, but not unheard of, sadly. She performed the psychological equivalent of a football tackle. This is a misguided attempt to approach classical music like tennis.

Maybe we can glean some life advice from this. Can you really make yourself shine bright enough to be worthy of an honor by dimming out other lights? Better this way: suppose a couple of people need to find a chandelier to hang in the foyer of your local Ritz. I can assure you that they will pick the brightest chandelier, and if none of them are bright enough, they’ll ignore the whole lot and move on. (In some unfortunate cases, they pick a chandelier that’s not quite bright enough and the whole room has this suffocating semi-luminescence; the same can happen in a competition and the results are evident in a concert). Your only choice is to work hard to become that bright star. Music is about a message, and the musician is a messenger. Dimming out the other lights makes the competition more about the messenger than the message, and that’s not honest. I know that may seem a tad nebulous, but it’s true. We’re looking for great musicians, not great winners.

Now the big moment comes. You’re attacked by nerves, you know that the best student in the county is in the slot after you, and you’re not quite ready to play a lot of notes really fast. But we have to admit it: By the time the moment comes, there has never been enough time to prepare. I don’t think I’ve ever been “fully and perfectly” prepared for an audition, and I probably never will be. Neither will you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we’re all just doing our best.

But I do have something to say about nerves. Psychologists actually call “physical activation” what we call “nerves” or anxiety. I think this is a more appropriate term; hence, I try to use my nerves to get pumped up. I jump around a bit, pretend I’m a kung fu master, and make silly faces: anything to relax. In reality, your brain is making your body think it needs to survive right now. I try to usher in a feeling of excitement to replace the feeling of fear.

Lastly: it’s time to enjoy the music! After all, the judges are human beings, just like you. Have a great week, dear readers.

– Maestro

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ANTHEA TEMPE SMITH – Avoiding Fashion Mistakes in Professional and Casual Settings

In my last posting I covered a few makeup tips so I thought I should give, a bit of advice on avoiding the fashion mistakes mentioned below. You may be shocked and and/or disturbed that some of these unfortunate fashion phenomena still exist.

Fashion Faux Pas

“A faux pas is a socially awkward or tactless act, especially one that violates accepted social norms, standard customs, or the rules of etiquette. The expression comes from French, where it means “false step”, “misstep”. It has been used in English for over 300 years.”

Visibly Damp Hair

When venturing out in public one should never do so with wet hair. Neglecting to dry your hair communicates, whether you are this way or not, laziness and/or lack of serious mindedness towards the job. “The bottom line is that wet hair is viewed by many as unprofessional because several people equate wet hair with unfinished hair. Going into work with wet hair might give off the impression that you are not ready for work, or that you did not have time in the morning to dry your hair. Employers, therefore, might assume that you put little effort into getting ready for work. However, most agreed that it is perfectly acceptable to go out with wet hair if you are going to class (if you’re a student) or if you are simply running errands,” says Susannah Gonzalez of NaturallyCurly.com. Also keep in mind that when you do dry your hair you should make sure that it doesn’t turn into something too unruly and unkempt. You don’t want it to look like you spent too much time on it but you also especially don’t want it to look like a last ditch attempt.

Obviously ill-fitting clothing

No one wants to see you in clothing that makes you look like you’ve been stuffed into a sausage casing. I have to say that one of the absolute worst fashion “faux pas” is that of the–for lack of a better word–“muffin top”. It is especially aggravating to see because the muffin problem can be so easily fixed. Just buy higher rising jeans. Or cover up the overflow with a longer shirt or a cardigan because believe me you don’t want that sort of thing distracting people from your good qualities.  You should always buy clothes that fit you well and well everywhere. When trying on jeans make sure to look in a full-length mirror and get a second opinion.

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 Visible Undergarments

Another problem with wearing clothes that are too small for you is that it’s more likely that things will show through inappropriately. It’s distracting, awkward for the people around you, and makes you look ridiculous. Seriously. Keep that in check.

Sandals with socks?

No.

 Fanny Packs?

*cringe* uhhhh. NO.

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Shoes

Make sure the style of your shoes matches the style of your clothes. Ever seen someone wearing tennis shoes and a business suit? I have and good lord is it startling, especially if the shoes are obnoxiously colored. Additionally it’s just as bad the other way around. High high heels with a casual Friday outfit? *cringe*

Heels are always a good choice providing of course that you can actually walk in them properly. The height of heels is a crucial factor and the appropriateness of certain heel heights varies. According to Lea Goldman, features and special projects director at Marie Claire, “Context is everything [in the office]. If you are wearing the highest pair of heels in your office, then you’re wearing the wrong shoes.” With that in mind, stick to heels and loafers in a business setting.

Crocs should never be worn to work. Or any time for that matter.

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Heavy Makeup

Makeup in business settings is a must but should never be strikingly obvious. It should be refined and elegant but not attention grabbing. (For more in depth makeup tips look into my last posting) The trick is wearing enough makeup to look put-together without looking like you’re actually wearing makeup.

NO

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Yes

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Inappropriate Jewelry

Like any other accessory, jewelry should match the style and level of formality of your outfit. It should bring out certain tones of what you’ve already got on but never overpower it. Also, never wear too many bangles/bracelets to work. They make noises and look cluttered.

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Wandering Falcon – Bryan Lee oMalley

Hey, hey lads and lasses. It’s been a little while, what with charity trips to Thailand and assorted complications of life and limb. I believe last time I laid electronically imitated ink to this vast whiteness I had drifted a little off the usual topic with non-Japanese manga, The Clarence Principle. I also promised to continue that theme a little. Therefore this week I shall talk about a manga creator from the exotic climes of Canada no less, the world-renowned Bryan Lee O’Malley.

O’Malley is the man behind Scott Pilgrim, the six volume manga turned feature film that encapsulates the collective life experiences of an entire generation in the tale of its titular everyman hero. Half Korean half French-Canadian and drawing comics in a Japanese format the man is effectively a poster boy for how the age of international communication allows for a whole new melting pot of influences and creativity to combine into artwork and people. All his work is clearly deeply grounded in his Canadian life and upbringing, and absolutely drenched in endless pop-culture references. Yet it has proven to strike a chord with people all across the globe, both in terms of shared life experience and off-hand humour.

The best comparisons to actual Japanese anime and manga I can come up with for O’Malley’s work is somewhere between the mad, referential humour of FLCL and the quiet slice-of-life reflection of Makoto Shinkai. The Scott Pilgrim series’ strongest point is quite definitely its step-back, self-aware humour at the expense of the characters it also portrays as it’s heroes, and presumably for the most part, audience. However it is because of this gently chiding self-debasement that the whole thing feels so damn poignant when it stands up and tackles the difficult aspects of life it portrays.

Lost at Sea, Bryan O’Malley’s debut graphic novel, is nearly overflowing with this almost tangible honesty about life for a girl finding her place in the world. It is a quiet, stuttering poem in pictures telling a tale of that space between lives, where everything is arriving, but nothing has quite lined up yet. It talks of the little delusions we tell ourselves and hide from the world at large and the specific moment we turn round and realise that everyone else is doing the same. It is a heart to heart with a fictional character who is so humanly flawed in her self-absorbed distancy that you can’t help but follow her transition into social awareness yourself, dragging whatever form it took for you along the way. It is not a thing of perfection, it ebbs and flows in pace and literacy and at times certainly misses the ice-breaking humour of its more successful successor. But it is the imperfections that lend it such humanity, such closeness. O’Malley’s writing echoes in the mind as a voice, not simply words on a page and that is a skill beyond measure.

Then came the Pilgrim. Critically proclaimed as the perfect expression of life and fantasy of the new millennial twenty-something. Scott Pilgrim is the Homer Simpson of the younger generation, a happy-go-lucky slacker whose easily associated with failings are washed over by a simple heart-warming honesty of intention. His trials in finding love, purpose and at one point even a job play out as the huge mountains to climb they really are when you’re a lost not-quite-adult thrown upon the world with a mind still mostly full of cheat codes for out-of-date video games. Maybe it is simply that as a 24 year old, post graduate rolling between unemployment and uninspiring employment who also happens to spend too much of his spare time with a bass guitar, I happen to be the perfect audience. But the popularity of Scott Pilgrim tells nothing if not how many likened souls there are to me in this world. The very way Bryan Lee unloads this simple tale of garage punk bands and blundering relationships is through constant expulsion of the very tropes and jokes that such people have been absorbing all these years. It plays out like a reflection of the titular characters subconscious as the various confrontations of life play out as computer game battles for highscores and gold coins.

I must also take a minute to praise the cinematic incarnation of this series. Directed by Edgar Wright of cornetto fame, the film is as near a perfect interpretation as could be hoped for. Though carrying a slightly different feel and moral purpose due to an altered ending, and downgrading some side characters roles, poor Kim, this allows the film to take its own place as an effort in creativity, without overstaying its welcome. The infusion of musical genius by Beck Hansen really honing the punk sincerity of the whole thing into a wall of static and bright colours.

Scott Pilgrim as a phenomenon sits as a balm for the modern cliché, the struggling slacker finding the world sits heavily beyond your preconceptions of social clique and apathy. It reminds you that crafted individually though your troubles may be, no man is an island and through self-respect and acknowledgement of others we might just all get through this together. I can only hope Bryan Lee O’Malley will continue to drag us along through all the heartfelt transitions his life takes and can’t wait till I’ve drummed up the cash to collect his latest creation, entitled Seconds.

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Colton McPherron – Fellgate

The large doors  were black and smooth as glass under the horrific archway that was worked into the jagged rocks of crimson.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”

The words in the center were carved plainly. So many had passed through in weeping and gnashing of teeth. Fear stuck by the sculpted depictions of ironic torments and the fiends loose upon victims with faces frozen in agony. Twisting around the black doors giving the stone the appearance of shifting fires. The loan wailing could be heard from within, muffled by the thick gates.

We shook the cavern walls as we marched. Loose stone fell and crumbled on the rocky floor. The Black and grey of the gates lit in the collective light of our torches. Banners streamed in thousands of colors all beneath one of white and red. Too many marched to count, all gleaming in silvery armor, like an army of stars. There was silence before the gates and I looked up them feeling my face twist in indignation.

There was a call from the commander and the siege machines rolled forward. The heat of the hailstones was tremendous and the crackled with energy, blue and brilliant. The floor quake as they were placed in position. Then the commander called for silence and all was still except for his voice that sang in hymns from every tongue. All was still, my nerves wound tight like wire on the point of snapping.

The commander raised his brilliant blade and motioned it downward. The campaign began. The hailstones leapt from their machines, flung like meteors in the night. They cracked and broke upon the gates in blooming fires of blue and white until nothing remained but rubble.

“Foreword!” cried the commander.

And the drums of war began to beat and the soldiers marched and danced upon the ruins of the gate. I remember passing a stone as black as night with its edges flared white, and the word on the stone was “Hope.”

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Elizabeth Bennet – On Gun Control

On April 20, 1999 disaster struck. For those of you who do not recognize that date, it is famous because of the Columbine high school shooting. That high school shooting, which is now referred to as a massacre, is the first massive high school shooting I can remember. If you live in Virginia you probably remember April 16, 2007- the Virginia Tech shooting. Also, one of the most recent and to me, most horrific shootings: Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14 2012. These shooting were all terribly horrific and have shaped our nation: not only in our thinking, but also in our policy.

These terrible massacres popularized a movement- gun control. From conservative families, to the most liberal individuals this is a hot topic. While most conservatives tend to defend the second amendment argument; liberals typically defend that gun control keeps our nation safer. When it comes to school shootings, no one of any party wants to see that happen. However, who is right in these situations? What is the solution to these terrifying problems? Let’s look at both standpoints before bringing any statics.

Conservative opinions: since conservatives already believe in free market and limited government with personal responsibility, it’s a no brainer that conservatives do not support gun control. Because the constitution (amendment 2) does give United States citizens the right to bare arms, conservatives typically support safe gun ownership. “Individuals have the right to defend themselves.  There are too many gun control laws – additional laws will not lower gun crime rates” (“Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs.”). One of the biggest arguments is that the laws the government is establishing will not stop criminals. Furthermore, the laws will only affect law abiding citizens and will not lower crime rate.

Liberal opinions: the belief that government is the solution to almost every problem. With a focus more on our nations equalities. “It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights” (“Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs). The belief in gun control is that citizens are to be protected by trained officers. Gun control will lower crime rates because criminals will not be able to obtain weapons. “The Second Amendment does not give citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but only allows for the state to keep a militia” (“Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs).

Now that we have a basic understanding of where both sides are coming from lets evaluate the facts.

  • Liberal Belief: Gun Control Lowers Crime Rates

“a study from 2007 published in a Harvard University journal is suddenly regaining increased attention for its claims that more control over firearms doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a dip in serious crimes” (Annear, Steve). This was a 46 page study originally published in Harvard’s Journal of Public Law and Policy. “the research published by Harvard [may] show a direct correlation between lower gun-related incidents and less stringent laws” (Annear, Steve). The fact of the matter is that if someone wants to murder someone else they can do that with or without a gun. A prime example of this is the Rwandan Genocide. The casualties were much greater than our school shootings; yet, no one used a gun, they used machetes. Just because no one has a gun does not necessarily mean that crime rate will go down.

  • Conservative Belief: The United States has too many Gun Laws

In fact, the United States is not in the leaders of strict gun laws.

The graph below is a great illustration of this. The united states is not even close to being a leader in the most gun laws. In fact most polls show Americans having the most guns in the world “The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. According to a Gallup poll, 30 percent of Americans own a gun. This adds up to an estimated 88 guns for every 100 Americans” (Saam, Kelli).

  • What do the American people want?

In a recent poll done by Gallup the people’s dissatisfaction with gun laws has increased to 55%, with an approval rating of 40% which is 7% loss since 2001 (Pavlich, Katie). “a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who want less strict laws, now at 16% up from 5% a year ago” (Gallup).

While the United States seems to remain split on the controversial topic, shouldn’t it be an individuals choice on whether they feel comfortable owning a firearm? Personally, I do not feel comfortable owning a firearm; however, the United States was established to create freedom. My personal opinion should not diminish the freedom of others around me. The constitution grants Americans the right to bear arms. The founding fathers thought that the American people should be entitled to defend themselves, so whats changed? Let Americans decided what they think on this controversial topic.

 

Work Cited:

Annear, Steve. “Harvard Publication On Gun Laws Resurfaces As Talks About Firearms Continue.” N.p., 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/08/30/harvard-gun-study-no-decrease-in-violence-with-ban/>.

“Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs.” Student News Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014. <http://www.studentnewsdaily.com/conservative-vs-liberal-beliefs/&gt;.

“Gun Law and Policy: Firearms and Armed Violence, Country by Country.” Gun Law and Policy: Firearms and Armed Violence, Country by Country. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014. <http://www.gunpolicy.org/&gt;.

Pavlich, Katie. “Poll: More Americans Dissatisfied With Gun Control Laws Being Too Strict.” N.p., 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/01/31/poll -more-americans-want-less-strict-gun-control-laws-n1787727>.

“Poll: More Americans Dissatisfied With Gun Control Laws Being Too Strict.” Townhall.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2014. <http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/01/31/poll-more-americans-want-less-strict-gun-control-laws-n1787727&gt;.

Saam, Kelli. “The U.S. and the World: How Other Countries Approach Gun Control.” N.p., 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <http://www.krcrtv.com/Guns-In-America/The-U-S-and-the-world-How-other-countries-approach-gun-control/-/18552662/18555738/-/15hheca/-/index.html&gt;.

Obama Marijuana

Dagny Taggart – Legalization of Marijuana

It’s been over two years since marijuana was legalized for recreational use in the states of Washington and Colorado, and the world still hasn’t burned down. Adults over the age of 21 have been free to possess and use up to one ounce of the drug since December 2012, and the states have yet to degenerate into smoker lounges and rehab clinics. Just last week, marijuana regulation in Colorado was decreased as licensed stores are now allowed to openly buy and sell marijuana to all who can present a valid government ID. Uruguay followed suit, with the president signing into law a bill which allowed Uruguay to become the first country to completely legalize the drug for recreational use. With all of these recent developments, I thought it would be helpful for us to revisit some of the best arguments for marijuana legalization.

One of the best arguments towards the legalization of marijuana is that the government should have no say in what an individual does to his or her own body, so long as it does not harm anyone else. This logic is the reason why cigarettes are legal, so long as the individual smokes in an area that will not force harmful smoke upon others. It is the reason why we allow alcohol, so long as individuals do not drive drunk. Why then would we draw the line at marijuana? If we are to illegalize marijuana simply because ‘it’s not good for you’ or because ‘people shouldn’t be doing it’ then we should also illegalize fast food and carbonated beverages. Arguing for marijuana illegalization on the grounds of health effects is simply an illegitimate argument.

But not only is the argument illegitimate- it doesn’t even make sense. Marijuana is not as harmful as other substances which are currently legal in all fifty states. Marijuana has been proven to be only psychologically addicting, making its addictive powers less severe than that of alcohol. The negative effects of smoking the drug are less than that of smoking tobacco products, and the connection between marijuana and brain damage has yet to be proven as conclusively as the connection between marijuana and alcohol.

Others try to argue that legalizing marijuana would create more smokers. Essentially, some don’t like to have to deal with those who have been smoking so it should not be used. I will again refer to alcohol and point out that angry drunks can be far more annoying than any peaceful ‘stoner’. Another interesting fact is that the legalization of marijuana actually decreases both the desirability and the potency of marijuana. When parts of Portugal legalized use of marijuana, the demand for marijuana actually decreased. Sociologists deemed this the “forbidden fruit effect” arguing that the illegal status of marijuana made it desirable or ‘cool’. The ‘bad boy’ feeling was completely crushed once you could purchase the drug and a bottle of pepto bismal in the same stop, figuratively speaking.

Furthermore, when marijuana is legalized the drug’s potency tends to decrease. When one is attempting to sell an illegal drug, logic dictates that it is best to have only small amounts of the drug on your person. It’s easier to be seen dealing drugs if you’re carrying around a gallon bag than if you’re carrying a small tin. Drug cartels have thus started increasing the potency of marijuana, so that dealers can carry less and sell what they carry for more. Sometimes, this can even involve lacing the marijuana with more dangerous and unsafe drugs, so that the purchaser really feels they get a ‘kick’ out of the drug. Legalizing marijuana allows the drug to be sold in lower potencies in a professional atmosphere, without as many hidden side effects.

Another argument that has gained much popularity in conservative circles is the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug. If an individual purchases marijuana, they are more likely to go on to try harder drugs. However, a recent study by the United States Federal Government showed that 75% of regular marijuana users never go on to try anything harder. Of the 25% that do go on to try another drug, there is a portion that will only try one drug and will never become addicted to this other drug. So the idea of marijuana as a gateway drug is disproven.

Some individuals make a fair point that children may gain access to marijuana once it is legalized. Even though laws restrict distribution based on age, children would have increased access to drugs. These children would become dependent upon the drug before their brains were fully developed, and would not be able to function normally in society afterwards. In the state of Colorado, we already have medical marijuana growing farms. These farms have the legal authority to grow marijuana for medical purposes. These farms can’t be busted for the possession of marijuana, just for illegal distribution. Although we have seen some cases where criminals have stolen from marijuana farms, we have yet to see a state-wide black market outbreak of illegal marijuana supplied by these farms. Additionally, the same is seen with alcohol. Adults can’t be prosecuted for possessing alcohol. However, they can be prosecuted for giving alcohol to minors. The same is said for cigarettes, adult-content magazines and videos, and many other things. It’s not new for the government to allow certain age groups to possess certain things.

What about the argument that is United States specific, that states should not legalize marijuana out of respect for the states that have not yet legalized it? States like Colorado could become smuggling grounds where marijuana is purchased and then sold illegally in other states. I strongly dislike this argument. The state of Colorado isn’t responsible for upholding the law in other states. If states can’t uphold their own laws, they are responsible for figuring out how to fix that problem. I also see this as a faulty point. It’s essentially saying, “We should uphold this bad law, so that the same bad law can be better upheld in other states.” Imagine if the same logic had been used during the civil war? Should the Northern states have upheld slavery in order to keep former slaves from being ‘smuggled in illegally’ and harming the laws of these other states? In addition, states which currently do not allow possession of marijuana would be able to arrest an individual for mere possession of the drug. Thus, it really doesn’t make a difference whether your possession of the drug involves it being grown in your basement or hidden in your car. (Actually, from a legal standpoint, it’s easier to arrest someone for smuggling since some search warrants required to search a basement do not apply to a vehicle, and police are more likely to see marijuana in a vehicle than in a house since a vehicle can be lightly searched after a traffic violation. So legally speaking, individuals who attempt to smuggle marijuana from other states are more likely to be caught and arrested… which means that these states’ legalization of marijuana is helping other state’s police forces catch criminals. You’re welcome.)

In the end, we have to consider what the legalization of marijuana is costing the United States. Each year, 800,000 new people are arrested for drug use and it is estimated that approximately 50% of our prison population is comprised of individuals arrested for drug offenses. The problem of prison overcrowding has become severe as we run out of room for new prisoners. While some of these prisoners are arrested for harder, more dangerous drugs, there is a significant portion that never tried anything more harmful than marijuana. Ironically, we cannot even stop illegal drugs from being spread into prison, so the majority of individuals who are sent to prison for marijuana possession leave prison addicted to much more deadly and potent drugs. To summarize:  1) we’re not actually solving the problem or drug use since prisoners have access to illegalized drugs 2) People who enter prison for drug offenses become addicted to high-potency drugs while in prison, effectively making the problem worse and 3) it’s overcrowding prisons with harmless people, and adding an unnecessary burden to taxpayers. Not to mention the court fees and legal fees which surround the process of sending an individual to prison.

As you look at the costs and benefits of the war on drugs as it pertains to marijuana use, you will begin to see more costs and less benefits. The minor message we are trying to send that ‘drugs are bad’ is not worth the threat posed to the effectiveness of our laws, legitimacy of government, efficiency of our court system or fairness of our taxation system.

primary_RosieTheRiverter

Carrie Sheahan – What’s to Come

“Why do you want to be feminist?”

It’s a question I’ve been posed time and again since I first began identifying as a feminist back in late 2012. Often times, people add follow ups of, “Don’t you, as a Christian, dislike so many of the things that radical feminism celebrates?” Or, “Why don’t you just want equality?” I used to answer with some sort of rabid, passionate yet ineloquent babble, emotionally certain of why I needed to be a feminist, but incapable of expressing logically and academically

It’s been a few years now, and I have had time to mature and learn to think things through concisely. Part of the reason why I felt it would be good for me to join marblesforajar would be so I could explain — to myself and to those that have questioned my stance on this issue — exactly why it is so important that I loudly proclaim my feminism, both for my own needs and those of others.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a three part series in which I explain why I, and the rest of the world, should embrace feminism, and try to answer the multitudes of questions that have been posed to me about the subject. I will address the three different forms of sexism; internalized, institutionalized, and intrapersonal, and give a brief overview of how these affect all genders. My hope is to educate any readers and help translate my past inane babblings. If you have ever wondered something about feminism or have questions regarding the beliefs, post a comment below! I’ll be happy to answer anything.

I am looking forward to this series, and hopefully correcting any inaccuracies you may have heard. Have a good day, and I’ll see you soon!