Open Letter: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Dear Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG,

You are red and shiny and diabolically fast. When I start you up, your exhaust note sounds like an orchestra made up entirely of tubas. When I press down on the throttle, you return the favour by pressing me into my seat. Your g-force feels like a father’s bear hug: part affection, part aggression.

I love being seen with you. You are a beautiful woman in scarlet. The men are all looking at you, and so are the women.

You never let me down. Even your insatiable thirst for high-octane fuel – which you so charmingly gulp right from the pump – somehow adds to your appeal.

You are a beauty and a beast wrapped up in one tight package on four smoking wheels.

As Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson says, “You’re an ax murder with headlights. And I absolutely adore you.”

Although I push it from my mind, someday we will part. You will begin to rust, and as more time goes by you will break down. We all break down at some point. I can hardly hold that against you.

Even when you’re gone, compacted into a lifeless block of metal, I will remember you and the times we had together. I too will get old. Then someday, in the twilight years of my life, when they finally take my license away, I will think back with fondness of our travels together.

Until that day, let’s burn rubber. If we go fast enough, maybe, just maybe, we can outrun time.

Badge of Dishonour: Boy Scouts Ban Gays

Boy Scouts Ban Gays: Have They Lost Their Moral Compass?

When I think about the Boy Scouts, I think about an organization that teaches boys and young men important values such as kindness, fairness, and ethical behaviour. Boys learning to tie knots, whittle sticks and light campfires under the careful supervision of trustworthy role models paints a picture of continuity and time-honoured traditions.  In fact, the Boy Scout tradition dates back as far as 1910, when General Robert Baden-Powell founded the organization in Great Britain. Since that time, the Boy Scouts have developed into worldwide organization. According to the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, there are over 30 million scouts in 161 countries. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) by itself has over 2.7 million youth members, making it one of the most influential youth-focused groups in America. However, Boy Scouts of American have come under heavy fire because of their controversial decision to ban gay men and boys from their organization – a move that undermines the very values they claim to uphold. This leads me to wonder: have the Boy Scouts lost their moral compass?

The decision to exclude gays came after a two-year evaluation conducted by a committee of “volunteers and professional leaders.” Bob Mazzuca, Boy Scouts of America’s chief scout executive defended the decision by pointing to strong internal support from the parents: “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”

A campaign to lift the ban on gays has been going on for years, ever since the US Supreme Court upheld the organization’s right to exclude gays from membership on the grounds that gay conduct “violated the organization’s values and beliefs.”

Although the Boy Scout’s of America’s decision to ban gays has been upheld by the Supreme Court, the decision has not faired as well in the court of public opinion. Much criticism was stirred up when Eric Jones, a 19-year-old Missouri Eagle Scout, was dismissed after admitting to the camp director that he was gay.

Eric Jones, who has been a member of the Boy Scouts for nearly 10 years, said he felt discriminated against, but did not regret his decision to be open about his sexuality. Jones credited the organization for instilling values that aided his decision to come out, saying: “I have to thank BSA for making [me] the person I am … [a] person who stands up for what I believe in.”

Eric Jones is right when he says he is being discriminated against. The Boy Scouts of America are sending a message loud and clear: if you are gay, you are not welcome. This form of bigotry and close-mindedness has no place in modern society and flies in the face of the organization’s own mission, which aims to “…prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes…” If anything, BSA is teaching children how to discriminate, exclude and treat people unfairly based on prejudicial attitudes. There’s nothing moral or ethical about that.

Thankfully, there is hope for change. Two high-profile BSA board members — Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young — have stated their intention to end BSA’s ban on gays. In addition, Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom from Ohio started a petition calling for an end to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays. The petition has already attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

If you’d like to lend your support, tell the Boy Scouts of America what they are doing is wrong. Sign the online petition to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders.

A Bucket List Worth Bragging About

Rethink the Bucket List

Creating a so-called bucket list has become de rigueur ever since Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson’s 2007 Hollywood movie popularized the concept. With the ubiquity of the bucket list phenomenon you’ve probably already heard your friends or family talking excitedly about their own list and all the unique and exhilarating activities they plan on doing before they kick the bucket. Maybe you’re thinking about creating your own bucket list. Maybe you already have one. Either way, it’s time to rethink what goes on it.

Unfortunately, a typical North American’s bucket list is about as predictable as a Russian election: travel to Europe, go bungee jumping, go white-water rafting, go sky diving, run a marathon.

If an alien species ever visited our planet and subsequently reviewed thousands of bucket lists in an attempt to understand human beings, they might surmise that a good life is a relatively simple affair. Just travel around, jump from high places, and test your physical endurance. The epitome of a perfect life is an Amazing Race contestant.

Obviously there’s more to life than a series of climatic experiences. Although bucket lists are not inherently bad, they are often comprised of trivial and superficial objectives — many of which are underpinned by blatant consumerist mentality. In the first-world consumer culture, experiences are everything. You don’t buy a car; you buy a driving experience. You don’t buy a steak dinner; you buy a dining experience. When self-indulgent experiences become the measure of one’s life, it’s easy to forget about our duty towards others. When we publicize our bucket lists, we are also making a statement to others about how to live. If our bucket lists are only filled with hedonistic pursuits we are, in effect, teaching others how to act. A bucket list is a representation of what society deems valuable.

Certainly, goal setting and following through on one’s initiatives is commendable — assuming they are noble and worthwhile. A common bucket list goal is “to be a contestant on Survivor”. Not exactly uplifting for humanity. For many of the world’s population the goal is simple: feed the family and keep a roof over their heads. To a mother living in Somalia, there is no time to think about skydiving. For a father living in Cuba, a trip to Europe is out of the question. While many of the privileged are busy boasting about their latest life-changing escapades others are struggling to put food on the table.

You might be thinking, that I’ve missed the point. Bucket lists aren’t supposed to be about others, you might say; they are all about the individual. However, individualism is the problem. All too often, a bucket list is nothing more than a vehicle for egocentric self-aggrandizement. It’s a way to boast about your experiences. It’s a way to brag. Surely, some people keep their bucket lists private, but the vast majority shouts it out to the world whenever they succeed in striking a goal from their list.

It’s time to rethink what goes on a bucket list. A bucket list that includes charitable, altruistic goals and activities has the potential to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. Imagine if the bucket list phenomenon could be refocused from a primarily self-centred affair, to one that included doing good deeds for others. Imagine if your friend on Facebook bragged about volunteering at a soup kitchen instead of riding in a limo.

Bucket lists can provide powerful motivation and help people enjoy and even improve their own lives. Learning new skills, paying off debts, reuniting with friends and improving one’s health are certainly worthwhile ways to spend time. Although a bucket list is always going to have a personal focus, it need not be exclusively self-centred. Start a non-profit organization; take a homeless person out for dinner; buy a musical instrument for a child who can’t afford one; help someone learn to read, bring a sick person flowers, give blood, clean up litter in a city park, adopt an abused animal. Now that’s a bucket list worth bragging about.

A Son’s Reflection

sons-mothers-day

It’s a week before mother’s day. Once again I find myself in the greeting card aisle at the drug store gazing listlessly at the huge selection of mother’s day cards on offer by our friends at Hallmark. There are elegant cards with floral patterns; there are cards that play music when you open them; there are cards that virtually drip with sappy sentiments. The choices are numerous, and yet I can’t find a single card that says something real. I need a card that speaks truthfully. I need a card that says ‘I love you and appreciate you’ without making depicting my mother as a saint.

I don’t know what your mother was like, but my mother was a real person. She was fallible; she made mistakes, and plenty of them. Sending a card that says, “You’re the best mom ever and you were always there for me,” is bullshit. It’s not going to fly. I’m left wondering why I do this every year. After all, it’s not like I don’t talk to my mom all the time. She knows how I feel, right?

As I leaf through the cards one by one, I begin wondering who actually grew up with a mother who could honestly live up to all this drivel. Are there really people out there with Hallmark mothers? If so, mother’s day must be easy for them. They probably don’t even bother opening the cards to read the messages inside. They simply walk down the aisle, pick the first card that catches their eye without breaking stride, assured that no matter the praise being doled out their mother would be deserving of it. Oh how I envy those people. I imagine how they must look: handsome young men, strong and cultivated, and beautiful young women with manicured nails and perfect hair. Flawless in every way, due to their superior genes and ascribed status. Already on their way to becoming perfect progenitors themselves, their children ride in luxury in the back of shiny black Range Rovers.

Maybe I can find a humorous card. Those are usually pretty safe. Something about scratch and sniff underwear maybe. Is that too crass? Probably. Maybe a blank card instead. Yes, that’ll work. I’ll write my own message this year.

I decide a on card with a cute puppy on the outside and a blank interior. When I get home I find a pen and scribble out a message:

Dear Mom, Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you have a great one! Here’s a gift card for the bookstore. I know you can never have too many books, right? I look forward to seeing you this summer. Until then, lot’s of love, Jesse.

Happy with my safe little message, I place the card in an envelope, attach a stamp and then walk to the mailbox down at the end of the block. When I get there I double check the address and pop the envelope into the box. To be safe I open the slot again to ensure that my letter has dropped down into the bin. As I turn to walk back home I think about how silly it is that I do this every time I mail a letter. I ask myself,  “Where did I ever learn to do that?” Suddenly I remember why I send a card in the first place. Maybe next year my card will say something more meaningful.

The Influence of Books

The Influence of Books

I’m influenced by books, and if you read, so are you. One cannot help but be shaped and even transformed by the books they read. Books are formidable tools in maintaining cultural ideologies, and on occasion they challenge the very culture they spring from. Books are entertaining and informative. At their best they challenge our imaginations. At their worst they aggravate and anger us. Books are revered. They are an avatar of free speech and they embody our natural right to share and communicate with each other. No wonder then that when a book is banned, it conjures up a deep sense of moral outrage. As lovers of books, we must stand up to protect them, even if we disagree with the contents within them. Books are precious. Books have value. They reflect the totality of the human experience, some more eloquently than others. Books change us. Books guide us. Some are considered holy. Some are considered evil; they are burned. No matter what you think of books, you can’t help but be influenced by them — and so am I.

Read my readings page to see how.

Mandatory Optimism

mandatory-optimism

You can fake a smile. You can fake a laugh. You can even fake an orgasm; just ask Meg Ryan. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally in which she faked an orgasm with such gusto it virtually cemented her place in popular culture.

Western culture has a love-hate relationship with faking it. On one hand we are told to “fake it until we make it.” On the other hand we are told, “be real; be true to yourself.” Despite the contradiction, it is generally agreed that happiness and optimism are desirable traits. If you’re not positive, if you’re not an optimist, there must be something wrong with you.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace. To lack enthusiasm is to risk being ostracized by your co-workers. Worse, a soporific demeanor can seriously limit your opportunities for career advancement. If you want to move up the ladder, you had better learn how to turn that frown upside down. The rewards of a cheery, optimistic attitude are clear. Researchers Ron Kaniel, Cade Massey and David T. Robinson studied the effect of an optimistic disposition on MBA students’ job searches and then promotions. They found that optimistic people were more likely to have higher starting salaries and were more likely to be promoted within their first two years on the job. Even those people who were less naturally optimistic could benefit by pretending to be. Walking around the office with a smile on your face and a skip in your step might be the best way to get a raise, or even that corner office everyone is vying for.

The media reinforces excitement as the penultimate human emotion. Public figures feigning – or at the very least exaggerating – excitement are front and centre in the popular press. A professional athlete touts his excitement at being traded to a small-market team; a CEO in a black turtleneck talks about how thrilled he is to announce a new, smaller MP3 player; a Hollywood actress declares her pleasure working with “such a talented cast.” Everyone is smiling. Everyone is thinking positively.

Is there no place in this world for pessimism? Does being excited and enthusiastic make us better workers, better spouses, and better human beings? Science might have the answer. Psychologists are beginning to challenge the idea that optimism is the ideal state of mind; however suggesting that pessimism might serve an important function is almost heresy in a culture obsessed by optimism. “In America, optimism has become almost like a cult,” says Aaron Sackett, a psychologist at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. To be labeled a pessimist is to risk being alienated and marginalized by co-workers. However, new research suggests that a balance between optimistic and pessimistic thinking may offer a more effective means of making smart decisions.  In her article The Uses and Abuses of Optimism and Pessimism, author Annie Murphy Paul says:

Successful people often employ pessimism in a strategic way to motivate and prepare themselves for the future. It’s simply not the case that optimism is “good” and pessimism is “bad”—although that’s how we’ve been encouraged to think about them. Rather, both are functional. And both have value.

Pessimism is an important counterbalance to optimism. The drawback of suppressing it is well exampled by the great recession of 2008. In a culture that celebrates the excitement of optimism, and all things delightful, who in their right mind would dare risk dissention? Anyone brave enough to question the wisdom of sub-prime mortgages, faced the prospect of being labeled a pessimist, a worrywart or even a fear monger.

Despite the proven benefits of balanced thinking, public perception is hard to change. Excitement and positive thinking are virtually mandatory in modern society. It’s no wonder that people try so hard to appear positive; they are motivated by the attainment of happiness, but as William Bennett noted: “Happiness is like a cat, if you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.”

Society propagates an illusion that is both unhealthy and dangerous when it limits peoples’ ability to speak truthfully. Allowing for the possibility that bad things really do happen, and that life isn’t a perpetual amusement park ride, we need to allow people the freedom to acknowledge it. Sometimes your job sucks. Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes life is tedious. Life is made up of highs and lows, but if we whitewash the world with unrealistic optimism and feigned enthusiasm, we risk losing touch with what makes life worth living: genuine happiness.

Reason, Religion & Faith

reason

Critics of religion often succumb to the same flawed thinking as those they oppose: moral absolutism. It’s not uncommon to hear even moderate atheists and agnostics blaming religion for the many wars and atrocities that fill the pages of history. Many so-called ‘new atheists’ see religion as a wholly bad thing, with no redeeming qualities. To them, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are of particular distain.  Religion’s malevolence, they say, is absolute. However, by taking an absolutist position, so-called neoatheists are simply following in the very same footsteps as the dogmatic and fanatical zealots they regularly berate.

While there are certainly problems with religion, it’s unreasonable to ignore the benefits it has afforded humanity. Without doubt many good deeds have been done in the name of religion. Religion provides strong communal connections amongst its adherents.  Religion also provides believers with security and continuity in their lives through traditional practices and rituals. Science has affirmed the benefits of religious practices; prayer and meditation help lower blood pressure and reduce harmful stress hormones. A myriad of advantages are imparted by religion and it’s fallacious to paint all religious practice as detrimental. Unfortunately, religion has an achilles’ heel: faith.

Faith is commonly defined as “belief that is not based on empirical proof.” Although people often use the word faith interchangeably with words like belief and trust, the faith that I refer to is religious faith. I am in no way saying that trust or belief (within reason) is undesirable.  Trust, as Immanuel Kant reasoned, is paramount to the functioning of society. Faith in your loved ones, or faith that the sun will rise tomorrow is very much unlike religious faith.  When one has faith that the sun will rise in the morning, that faith is based on predictable and testable events. Religious faith is independent of empiricism; it is unfalsifiable and is not dependent on proofs. In order to have faith in the religious sense, reason must be dismissed or, at the very least, diminished. Faith therefore by its very nature is unreasonable.

Religious faith is a learned ability. Small children naturally require proof when a claim is made. This is exampled on playgrounds everywhere with children imploring their playmates to “prove it.” Children are generally apt to forgo observable proofs in lieu of authoritative testimony – at least temporarily. Eventually children get wise to the authority figure who makes claims about the world that cannot be proven. However, Christianity and other religions verily celebrate the ability to believe a thing even when evidence for it is either lacking or contrary to the held belief. Indeed, the greater the lack of proof, the greater the faith. The bible illustrates this point:  “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

If someone holds a strong belief based on faith, no amount of reasoning or evidence can dispel it. In fact, the faithful should be able to withstand any bombardment of facts and proofs. This ability to deny any evidence that runs counter to their thinking is greatly admired amongst the faithful. So what’s the problem with resistance to facts? Simply put, people do not generally agree on matters of faith. Asides matters of faith, people are apt to disagree on almost every aspect of life. Faith interferes with the resolution of arguments and disputes. In secular society, disagreements can be resolved – to a degree – through appeal to reason. Logical arguments and empirical proofs are useful tools in resolving disputes when the facts are up for debate; however, if a disagreement hinges on an article of faith it can never be resolved since faith is incontrovertible. Faith promotes entrenched thinking that ignores facts about the world and instead upholds dogma.

Religion certainly has its redeeming qualities, but when paired with religious faith, it becomes a serious impediment towards peaceful coexistence and human progress. Admittedly, faith can – and does – motivate good deeds, but faith is not the only means by which to inspire philanthropy. In fact, the most philanthropic countries are the least religious.

Humanity would be well served in ceasing to celebrate religious faith. Instead, humanity should be using its unique capacity for reason and logic in the effort to promote human flourishing. Only when reason overcomes blind faith, can humanity ever hope to achieve its full potential.

All Opinions Being Equal

all-opinions-equal

As Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry) said, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.” He was right; you don’t have to look far to find opinions on virtually every topic from atheism to vegetarianism. Television, magazines, books, blogs and YouTube videos serve to promulgate opinions. With such a cornucopia of convictions, you can now live your entire life without ever being forced to listen to opinions you don’t agree with. If confronted by an opinion you don’t like, just change the channel or revise your search. Avoid the uncomfortable circumstance of having your opinions challenged, or worse yet, proven wrong. Simply find someone who shares your viewpoints and revel in the reaffirmations they provide. If you’re conservative, Fox News will satiate your desire to see liberals berated. Lefty? No problem, MSNBC is just a click away. Maybe you’re a believer of intelligent design. With a quick search on YouTube you can learn about how silly the theory of evolution is.  And what’s the harm; tolerance is good right? Should we not accept, and even celebrate, the diversity of opinions within our culture?

To answer that question, it is helpful to examine the nature of opinions and to understand the differences between personal opinions and informed opinions. A personal opinion is subjective. For example, if one woman loves chocolate ice cream, she might believe it to be the best flavour; however another woman may disagree with that opinion, instead preferring vanilla. Opinions of this variety might be thought of as personal preferences. It would be silly to argue that one opinion about the best ice cream is any better than the next. In this regard, all opinions that reflect personal preference are equally valid.

Not all opinions relate to personal preferences. Some opinions reference certain facts about the world. These facts are not subjective, but objective. It is true that some facts are verifiable and demonstrable, independently of what we may think about them. Unlike the opinions about ice cream, which relate to personal inclinations, opinions about the objective world can be right or wrong; therefore some opinions are valid while others are invalid. As author Douglas Adams said, “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” Where it was once a common opinion that the world was flat, we now know that the world is spherical. Even though many people once held that false belief, the truth was independent of those beliefs.

Surely we can celebrate the diversity of opinions as they relate to personal inclinations, but invalid opinions about the objective world can range from faintly foolish to decidedly deleterious. If, for example, a person holds the opinion that aliens are responsible for the assassination of JFK, that opinion is not likely to cause serious harm to anybody, save the holder. At most, that person may face certain social disadvantages from those that disagree with that person’s extravagant claims. However other invalid opinions can lead to real harm. Recently, a colleague of mine suggested that scientific findings about global warming were merely opinions. This statement troubled me. It smacked of a relativistic worldview that effectively negates any path to objectivity. While I agree that my personal view on global warming is an opinion, I would argue that it is an informed opinion. Whether or not it is true, is independent of what I think about it. It is not a personal, subjective opinion. It is an objective opinion based on certain empirical facts about the world. Whereas believing in aliens may be largely innocuous, believing that global warming is not caused by human activity can lead to actions that are detrimental to the long-term health of the environment. If enough people held that opinion, the path towards disastrous climate change would become a four-lane highway.

So how do we decide whose opinions to accept and whose to reject? While the answer to that question may be best left to professional philosophers, a simple decision procedure for qualifying the validity of an opinion can be adopted by any rational being. Hence, when forming opinions or evaluating the opinions of others it is advisable to begin by asking yourself whether the opinion in question can be verified through direct observation or by rational argument. If the opinion, which is based on a set of premises or claims, cannot be directly tested, it may be necessary to accept proofs provided by others – i.e. expert testimony. When appealing to the testimony of another, it is necessary to evaluate the expertise or authority of the other. In addition, it is vital to consider number of other experts that support the claim, the possible motives for supporting the claim and the means by which the claim was advanced.

Clearly, not all opinions are equal. The advice of a medical doctor is more valuable to a cancer patient than the advice of a self-help guru who suggests, “Chemotherapy is not needed. It’s mind over matter.” Unfortunately the general public has been caught up in the politicizing of ideas and even scientific facts are now up for debate. Opinions that are supported by rational argument and empirical evidence, opinions that are tested and verified over and over cease to be opinions – they are accepted as fact. But when any fact can be disavowed, when any fact can be dismissed, when any fact can be discredited without appeal to evidence, we are only left with our opinions; unfortunately our opinions are notoriously biased and uninformed.

People Suck. Right?

people-suck

People are everywhere, but most of them are rubbish. Well-known comedian, Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, “People are the worst.” He was right. It is not a hard argument to make.  Everyone knows that people are inconsiderate, selfish and greedy. There are people that don’t signal in traffic, people that pick their noses, and people that sneeze without covering their mouth. There are those that pollute the environment, those that ignore the poor, and those that admire the cast of Jersey Shore. Bad people are all around. Some of them have bad hair. Some of them have smelly breath. Others wear too much cologne. These are the jerks, the idiots, and the morons.

Minor offenders cause aggravation, but major offenders cause real damage. Men that beat their wives, women that dump babies into trashcans and bullies that beat-up other kids represent the steaming heap of refuse that is mankind. These are the assholes, the bitches and the shitheads.

Beyond major offenders come truly evildoers like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. These genocidal maniacs can barely be described as human beings, and yet they are. They are human, if barely. They represent the worst of all potentialities inherent in the species Homo sapiens.

The gamut of human nastiness ranges widely from vile and villainous to depraved, despicable and diabolical. There is no shortage of words to describe the worst that mankind has to offer.

So why put up with it? For better or worst, human beings are social animals that are dependant on one another. Holing up in a cave like a misanthropic caveman is not really a viable option. It might be tempting to run off and hide in the mountains, secluded and concealed from the dreary emanations of society; however the success of the species depends on co-operation and collaboration. Interdependency is the keystone characteristic that makes societal progress possible. More than that, people need each other. Beyond the basic necessities of food and shelter, people require companionship, love and affection. The desire to connect emotionally with others is a biological imperative, critical to the ongoing success of mankind. Simply put, people need people whether they like it or not.

Human beings exhibit a host of positive attributes designed to counterbalance negative ones. Forgiveness, compassion and generosity provide effective antidotes to many of life’s trivialities. When ‘golden rule’ human attributes are inadequate, as in the case of the worst evildoers, people invoke laws, punishment and justice.

Humans are social animals, but that does not mean that they are always sociable. Mankind has a split personality and is plagued by diametrically opposed forces vying for control. Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, humanity is caught up in a contest between rationality and animalistic tendencies.

Antisocial attitudes abound. An ongoing struggle between social and antisocial instincts is raging. The battle lines have been drawn between those that aim to improve society and those that wish to tear it down. To address this issue, politicians and bureaucrats have enacted laws that are designed to protect society, often to the point of absurdity. For every rule, there are people willing to break them. A teenager talking on his or her cell phone during a movie, a woman smoking in a no-smoking area, a man speeding through a playground zone: they are all thumbing their noses at those who comply. Discourteous individuals who blatantly disregard social niceties are a constant irritant to the protagonists of order. They are a thorn in the side, a burning ember of vexation to be stomped out.

Conflicts within social systems are inevitable, but do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Obviously so, otherwise there would be no cities, towns, or any large-scale groupings whatsoever, beyond the family unit. Even heinous perils, such as rape or murder, are worth risking to reap the benefits afforded by living in a collective. The benefits are hard to overlook. The great achievements of humanity would not have been possible if it were not for the setting aside of disputes and the reigning in of combative urges. Indeed, even mankind’s most nefarious pursuits, like war, have produced beneficial outcomes. Technologies like sonar, radar and other communications innovations were advanced through competition between the Allies and the Axis powers in WWII. Co-operation between individuals, families, tribes, communities, collectives and super-collectives has made all things possible.

The evidence is everywhere. Headline news is filled with stories about war, political backstabbing, crime, and other misfortunes. By flipping through the pages of any newspaper one will find plenty of evidence that people are a big bag of hurt. People are not to be trusted. Bogeymen lurk behind every corner. It is a world of trade-offs between good and bad. In spite of all that, our world can be a beautiful place. Can anyone say they would throw it all away?